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Musical Women and Identity-Building
in Early Independent Mexico (1821-1854)
Yael Bitrán Goren
Thesis submitted for the degree of PhD
Music Department,
Royal Holloway, University of London
Declaration of Authorship
I, Yael Bitrán Goren, hereby declare that this thesis and the work presented in it is
entirely my own. Where I have consulted the work of others, this is always clearly
Signed: ______________________
Date: 13 April 2012
This thesis investigates music in Mexico City, with an emphasis on women's
relationship to Romanticism, education, consumption, domestic music-making and
public performance. During the first decades after independence in 1821, Mexicans
began the process of constructing an identity, which musically speaking meant an
expansion of the secular musical world. Such construction involved the development
of internal activity alongside a conditional receptivity to external influence in the
form of the visits of Italian opera companies such as those of Manuel García and
Max Maretzek, and travelling virtuosi such as pianist virtuoso Henri Herz, who
brought new repertoire and performance practices to Mexican theatres and homes.
As consumers and as musicians, women were at the centre of such developments. In
Mexico, both European music and that of local musicians was disseminated by
means of ladies’ journals and imported and locally-printed sheet music by foreign
and Mexican composers, in order to supply a growing home market for amateurs.
Abundant surviving repertoire for the home, the widespread availability of musical
instruction as revealed through advertisements, and witness accounts of soirées and
concerts in the theatre reveal a budding musical world that has hitherto been
overlooked and which occurred during a period generally deemed of little importance
in Mexican musical history.
By investigating a key period in the social-cultural history of Mexican music,
this thesis crafts a narrative of intersections between the musical life of Mexican
women and the incipient construction of a musical-cultural identity.
Index of Contents
Index of Contents............................................................................
Chapter 1. ‘An excess of sensibility’. Constructing Women’s
Identity in Romantic Mexico..........................................................
Chapter 2. Albums for Young Mexican Women: Music,
Dance and Iconography..................................................................
Chapter 3. Women Musicians and their Teachers in
Independent Mexico.......................................................................
Chapter 4. The Operatic World of the New Nation........................
Chapter 5. Henri Herz: A European Virtuoso in
Mexico (1849-1850).......................................................................
Table I. Composers and Arrangers.................................................
Table II. Musical Genres.................................................................
Table III. Album Josefa Zúñiga......................................................
Table IV. Album Instructor Filarmónico, Vol. I…………………
Table V. Album Instructor Filarmónico, Vol. II………………....
Appendix A. Henri Herz’s Concert Programs in Mexico
City as Published by Mexican Newspapers……………………..
Appendix B. Original Spanish Quotes………………………….
I thank my parents, Sofía and Daniel Bitrán, my brothers Arón and Álvaro, and
their families, for their love, encouragement and support, and also my brother Saúl, for
having brought me countless books and CDs from the US that were necessary for my
I am very grateful to my supervisor Professor Katharine Ellis for her
indefatigable, generous support and reassuring advice throughout the project, together
with her willingness to overcome the challenges of long-distance supervisory work.
The thesis benefited from the corrections and observations made by the
committee members Dr Benjamin Walton and Dr Matthew Head, for which I am deeply
I would further like to thank my musicologist colleagues in Mexico for their
support in different ways and in diverse moments of this project: Aurelio Tello, Karl
Bellinghausen, Jesús Herrera, Armando Gómez, Nelson Hurtado, Omar Morales Abril,
José Luis Segura Maldonado, Lorena Díaz Núñez and Ricardo Miranda. I especially
thank Eduardo Contreras Soto for the hours of company and conversation we have
shared through these years. I would further like to thank my friends Anette Pier, Pilar
Montes de Oca Sicilia, Claudia Montero, Juan Arturo Brennan, Álvaro Vázquez
Mantecón, Gabriela Rivera, Blanca Avendaño, Marina Elías, Adriana Herrera and
Mónica Sesma.
My deepest thanks to Catherine Rendón for editing considerable parts of this
thesis, translating part of the quotes and helping me with my conundrums with the
English language; her generous help and friendship were invaluable.
I would further like to thank my friends and colleagues John Koegel and John
Lazos for their generosity and their support sending materials that they found for me in
American and Canadian libraries and also for their constant disposition to embark upon
an enriching academic dialogue. Thanks are due to Dr Lois Zamora for her support and
careful and constructive reading of part of this work. The academic exchange with Dr
Haiganus Preda-Schimek was enriching for both of us, and I thank her sharing her work
with me. I thank Eugenia Roldán Vera and Javier Álvarez for having informed me about
universities and PhD programs in England and having encouraged me to undertake this
I thank Dr Henry Stobart, my advisor, for his encouragement and support. I also
thank Dr Julian Johnson and Dr Julie Brown and Directors of Graduate Studies of the
Music Department in different moments of this thesis for having supported me with
letters needed for my Mexican scholarship and in other ways. Professors Jim Samson
and Tina K. Ramnarine provided valuable comments that enriched my original
proposal. Nanette Elias, Faculty Administrator, was always helpful in sending across
the ocean several letters and documents I needed in Mexico.
While in England, living with my family, I was fortunate to meet wonderful
people who made our stay there a great experience and who have remained friends
throughout these years: Andrew and Helen Taylor, Ana Muñoz and Andrés Carvajal,
Natalie Tsaldaraki and Panayotis Archontides, Thomas Hilder, Matthew Prittchard,
Juliane Dorsch, Lena Hoppe, Andrea Bohlman, John Ling and Rachel Beckles-Willson.
They too deserve my thanks.
This thesis has been generously funded by the government of Mexico through
the Study Abroad Program of The National Fund for the Culture and the Arts (FONCA)
during three full years. For this, and the three months leave that the National Centre for
Musical Research (Cenidim/INBA) granted me in the final writing months, I feel
honoured and deeply thankful.
For my children, León, Samuel and Clara this thesis is an integral part of their
lives; I thank them for enduring the process and giving me reasons to carry on with this
project. Georg Leidenberger, my husband, was the unremitting support in all areas of
my life during its realization. His love for me and faith in my capacity to complete this
thesis, along with an engaging impatience, were indispensable ingredients for this
project to come to light.
México D.F., April 2012
After independence in 1821, the Mexican upper classes embarked on the
construction of political institutions, a constitution (issued in 1824), and definition of
a national profile and identity. If by the end of the colonial times this exclusive and
learned elite comprised ‘noblemen and aristocrats, high bureaucrats, clergymen,
professionals, professors and students’,1 after independence the grouping expanded
to include lawyers and intellectuals who founded ‘literary, scientific, and economic
associations (whose publishers, readers and members overlapped)’.2 This thesis
engages with their musical world, centring on Mexico City during the first
independent decades after three centuries of Spanish dominion. Diverse ingredients
constituted that world. A thriving community of amateur musicians, many of them
women, was eager to play, to sing or to listen to the musical novelties coming from
Europe, and to savour local compositions. Additionally, this musical community
represented the majority of people attending concerts at the National Theatre. The
men of the Mexican bourgeoisie liked music not only for musical reasons but also
because performances facilitated interaction, during the intervals and also during the
spectacles themselves. In addition, it was fashionable for the men of the elite to take
prominent positions in the organisation of musical events. Theatre performances
served as a laboratory to regulate standards in behaviour, including the reception of
new repertoire and performance practices by visiting musicians and companies, who
also played a role in the creation of a Mexican musical profile.
A growing market for instruments, music teachers and for sheet music for the
home sustained this participatory culture while a freelance professional community
also developed, dependent on its own financial means after centuries of church
patronage which was now in decline. Professional musicians were employed as
teachers for private classes, and a few created their own academies or taught music in
schools. Their employment options included poorly paid jobs in orchestras or choirs
for visiting companies and musicians, making musical arrangements, or publishing
their own compositions for theatre or home consumption. Some of these musicians
were preoccupied with the construction of a national musical profile, including the
Victor M. Uribe-Uran, ‘The Birth of a Public Sphere in Latin America during the Age of
Revolution,’ Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, No.2 (2000), 437.
Ibid., 445.
musical education of a community that would come to be worthy of the new country,
as well as composing pieces with a local flavour. Finally, adventurous opera
companies and visiting musicians from Europe were willing to face bandits, political
unrest and nearly impassable roads in order to obtain adoration and, especially, large
This thesis concentrates on the musical spaces of the home and the theatre
and on how they interacted, paying special attention to the participation of women.
The emphasis is historical and aims at the construction of a cultural and social
history of music performance, public formation, reception, consumption and social
integration among the Mexican high-bourgeoisie. In Matthew Head’s words: ‘For the
historian, the challenge of “music as a cultural practice” is to situate the new stories
music is heard to tell within a specific material world inhabited by musicians and
listeners who themselves produced those stories through performance and
interpretation’.3 Within this ‘specific material world’, we have granted the home
special importance as a centre for musical production and consumption. All actors
within the musical community interacted there, and their many stories have been
generally overlooked because of the nature of the music performed (mostly salon
repertoire), the main actors (women) and, last but not least, the difficulty of
documenting the phenomenon. A wide array of primary sources from the period,
such as sheet music (including the cover images—as carriers of socio-cultural and
not only musical meaning—)4 pamphlets, newspaper and magazine advertisements,
chronicles and articles, paintings, novels, short stories and poems, are the basis for
this construction of a ‘thick description’ to use anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s
concept of culture.5
The timeframe of the thesis extends from 1821, the year of Mexico’s final
independence from Spain, to 1854, by when a first stage of consolidation of the new
republic had ended and a gradual consolidation of music institutions and symbols
had taken place. It was also the year of the composition of the national anthem
(which is sung in Mexican schools on every Monday to this day), and that of the
Matthew Head, ‘“If the Pretty Little Hand Won’t Stretch”: Music for the Fair Sex in EighteenthCentury Germany,’ Journal of the American Musicological Society, 52 (Summer, 1999), 205.
Valuable examples of this type of reading include Candace Bailey, ‘The Antebellum ‘Piano Girl’ in
the American South,’ Performance Practice Review, 13 (2008), Claremont Graduate University: 1-43,
and James Davies, ‘Julia’s Gift: The Social Life of Scores, c.1830,’ Journal of the Royal Musical
Association, 131, No. 2 (2006), 287-309.
Clifford Geertz, ‘Chapter One. Description: Toward and Interpretive Theory of Culture,’ The
Interpretation of Culture (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 3-30.
celebrated German soprano Henriette Sontag’s death in Mexico from cholera. The
year 1854 is symbolically taken as the end of an era. About fifty years later, a
vigorous nationalistic musical movement developed in Mexico, to which many wellknown composers such as Silvestre Revueltas, Carlos Chávez, Manuel M. Ponce and
José Pablo Moncayo belonged. This period in Mexican music history has been
widely studied and documented. The flourishing of that world of composition is
illuminated by the less glamorous beginnings probed in this thesis, which contends
that Mexico’s nationalistic period can be better understood by looking not only at the
composers who preceded the famous generation of Chávez and Revueltas, but also
by examining the musical culture of their predecessors. Moreover, the complex
interactions between the community of the Mexican capital and the European
musical world form a running thread in this thesis, which examines the cultural
traffic between European and Mexican music and musical practices through concepts
such as adaptation and resistance, as developed by historian Mary-Louise Pratt.6
Partly this period of Mexican musical history has been underplayed or
disregarded in Mexican music histories due to the apparent absence of ‘canonic’
subjects for musicological study, such as great composers and compositions and
notable performers. This thesis demonstrates that when seen from a broader
historical-cultural standpoint, the period contributed greatly to the development of a
secular musical community in Mexico. Among other things, I argue that the
construction of an early Mexican musical identity encompassed the forging of a
national-sounding music that consisted initially in salon pieces and that was
encouraged by an emerging musical publishing industry and consumer market.
After achieving independence, Mexico was plunged into a period of internal
factionalism and division whose political instability manifested itself through the
inability of any one president to finish his term. The liberal and conservative parties
were violently negotiating conflicting views over the shape the nation ought to take,
as monarchist tendencies were still strong within the new republic, and federalist
leanings competed with centralist ones. The role Indians and mestizos were to play in
the country’s social and political life remained unclear. Both groups found
themselves marginalized within a nation created essentially by the criollos, or
Spanish descendants, who inherited the power previously held by the Spaniards and
Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge,
maintained the class structures. A powerful institution was the Church, which
continued to meddle in governmental and civic affairs at least until 1859, when the
liberal government promulgated the Reform Laws, which officially separated State
and Church. A system of ‘institutionalised disorder, in which the republic moved
from crisis to crisis, the steadily growing burden of foreign and domestic debt [was]
the best measure of the republic’s weakness. […] The price for these decades of
internal conflict was paid in 1845-8, when the United States declared war and
inflicted an overwhelming defeat on a demoralised and divided Mexican army’.7
Mexico, not unlike nineteenth-century European countries, reacted to foreign
invasions with formidable patriotism. According to historian Carlos Illades: ‘In the
formation of the [Mexican] national consciousness, one finds a confluence of the
experience of fighting external invaders, with a consequent heightening of patriotic
sentiment, and the budding of literature, visual arts and science devoted to the
national cause.’ 8 Music too formed part of the recipe that created Mexican identity.
Ever since the arrival of the Spaniards, music had been a relatively accepted
medium for the cultural integration of European values. During the three centuries
that ran from 1521, the year of the conquest of the Aztec’s capital Tenochtitlan, to
1821, which marked definitive independence from Spain (as negotiated by the criollo
colonel Agustín de Iturbide), the Catholic Church was the richest and the most
dominating colonial institution. Mexico (called New Spain at the time) was Spain’s
most important overseas possession, providing it with abundant supplies of silver and
gold. Obtaining a tenth of the metal being exported, New Spain’s Church financed
not only luxurious altarpieces in churches across the colony, but also musical chapels
of the highest level. These included imported chapel masters from the Spanish,
Portuguese and Italian courts who conducted choirs and orchestras in cathedrals
located in Mexico’s main cities. Throughout the year, local and foreign composers
composed music for religious festivities that was played by professional and amateur
musicians. Children following an ecclesiastical career learnt music in church schools
and went on to become singers, organists or instrumentalists in cathedral orchestras.
D. A. Brading, The First America. The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots and the Liberal States:
1492-1867 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 640.
Carlos Illades, Nación, sociedad y utopía en el romanticismo mexicano, Sello Bermejo
(Mexico: Conaculta, 2005), 20. This and the following translations from Spanish texts are mine unless
indicated otherwise.
A wealth of high-quality compositions attests to a vibrant religious music movement
within the Mexican Church.
The importance that colonial and peninsular authorities conferred on music
was partly due to the fact that music was, from the conquest onwards, a device
capable of attracting Indians towards Catholic religious practices in ways no other
element could. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Church
consciously used music in order to Christianize the indigenous population. In
addition, in New Spain, representations of drama, another catechizing device that
included music, took place inside churches, in atriums, religious schools or plazas.
Musical gatherings also took place in the homes of the criollos, although not as
frequently as after independence. There are ecclesiastical documents dating from as
early as the sixteenth century that express concern over the ‘excessive fondness’
Indians displayed for music in churches, a predilection that was lacking either with
regard to the learning of the Spanish language or the Catholic religion itself. As will
be demonstrated, a similar critical charge of ‘excessive fondness’ for music was
directed at women of the upper classes in the mid-nineteenth century. This
parallelism suggests that subdued subjects in New Spanish/Mexican history seemed
to have found in music a means of expression, or at least a source of enjoyment, that
proved problematic in terms of control by the dominant, male, contingent.
During the three centuries of dominion, Spain held over her colonies a
monopoly regarding the publication and circulation of printed materials that affected
the variety and amount of music available. From the second half of the eighteenth
century onward, however, the Colonial authorities started to lose the battle vis à vis
smuggling in all areas of economic activity, and in music this meant a growing
market of imported sheet music and local publications. Smuggling co-existed with
legal imports and the deep-rooted practice of making hand-written copies. A growing
market of sheet music for home consumption ran parallel to the theatre’s
performances. Music merchants allowed the community access, via domestic
formats, to what they had heard in the theatre, while they also supplied a vast array
of other European music. They also provided music in advance of theatre
performances, bringing the local community closer to European musical fashions
despite not having a regular theatrical life.
An inventory from the estate of publisher and bookseller José Fernández de
Jáuregui after his death in 1801 provides testimony of the music repertory being sold
at a store at the end of colonial times.9 There is a predominance of classical
composers with pieces for different instrumental combinations: symphonies, sextets,
quartets, trios and duets, as well as diverse forms, such as sonatas, serenatas,
concertos and individual pieces for solo instrument (particularly guitar, cello, piano,
flute and violin). Composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Stamitz, Johann Christian
Bach, Boccherini, Paisiello, Cimarosa and Clementi, among many others, are
included on this list. Interestingly, Fernández de Jáuregui also sold Spanish and
Mexican music, such as sonecitos de la tierra, tiranas and boleras.10
A study by John Koegel has revealed invaluable Mexican musical sources in
the Sutro Library in San Francisco that corroborate the extent to which all kinds of
European music reached the New Spanish territory during the last decades of its
existence, in quantity and variety unheard of before. In it, Koegel also revealed
important facts about the circulation of music at the end of the colonial era: imported
theatrical songs from the Spanish court and theatre that were sung at the Coliseum
were frequently sold in stores for home consumption. Ballet and dance music from
Europe and Mexico, arias and overtures from Italian operas, and music from the
Classical period were all played at the theatre and in the homes of the criollos in
chamber music forms, handwritten in notebooks.11 The Sutro collection is a proof of
the significant circulation of secular printed music from Europe in Mexico at the
During the first decades of the nineteenth century, opera gradually took
prevalence over the Spanish seguidillas and tonadillas escénicas, the most popular
genres during Colonial times. The change in taste and repertoire proved gradual and
started to take place by the end of colonial times. According to Gerónimo Baqueiro
Fóster, tonadillas met Rossinian opera ‘without confrontation, clashes or rivalries,
announcing the beginning of the era of great Italian opera’, which he situates in
1805.12 It was Italian opera sung in Spanish by Spanish tonadilleros and, to a lesser
See John Koegel, ‘Nuevas fuentes musicales para danza, teatro y salón de la Nueva España,’ trans.
by Yael Bitrán, Heterofonía 116-117 (1997), 25-26, and also Ricardo Miranda, ‘Reflexiones sobre el
clasicismo en México (1770-1840),’ Heterofonía, 116-117, (1997), 39-50.
This inventory demonstrates, that Classicism was playing a decisive role at the end of Colonial
times, despite earlier claims by historians that this musical school was practically nonexistent in
Mexico and that the country nearly bypassed it to transit directly from Baroque to Romanticism.
Miranda, ‘Reflexiones sobre el Clasicismo,’ passim.
Koegel, ‘Nuevas fuentes musicales,’ 9-37.
Gerónimo Baqueiro Fóster, Historia de la música, III. La música en el periodo independiente
(Mexico: Secretaría de Educación Pública/Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes/Departamento de
Música/Sección de Investigaciones Científicas, 1964), 106.
extent, by local actors educated in the Spanish style, since no Italian companies had
arrived at the time. The date provided by Baqueiro Fóster seems somewhat early
regarding the available evidence of Italian opera in theatres and homes; I would be
more inclined to subscribe to John Koegel’s more cautious claim that ‘[t]he
dominance of Italian opera in performance and in compositional style within
theatrical and non-theatrical contexts, as well as social prestige, was a constant factor
at least from the 1820s.’13 In any event, it was not until Manuel García and his
company’s visit to Mexico in 1826 that the country heard Italian opera in its original
language. From then on, as we explore in this thesis, Italian opera in Italian reigned
supreme for the better part of the nineteenth century.
Although important historians of nineteenth-century Mexican music
implicitly recognize the existence of a lively amateur music life where professionals
played an important role and acknowledged the existence of music schools and a
wealth of compositions, they nevertheless consider the first half of the nineteenth
century in the Mexican music history as musically weak or even failed. The Spanish
exile of German descent Otto Mayer Serra, who published his Panorama de la
música mexicana. Desde la Independencia hasta la actualidad in 1941, considered
that while the Church was in charge of Mexico’s musical production during Colonial
times, the country stayed more or less in tune with high European musical
development; but once Mexico achieved independence and a literal separation from
Europe, a delay took place, which he attributed partly to the flourishing of the
‘retrogressive’ bourgeois salon. Mayer Serra labelled Mexican compositions of the
nineteenth century as ‘a slavish imitation of Italian, and later French and German
models’.14 He considered salon music, in Mexico and elsewhere, ‘herabgesunkenes
Kulturgut’, a degenerate cultural asset. Mayer Serra did not seek to discover what
was specific about Mexico’s music; he thought that the same ‘basic factors’ that
played a role in Europe were also active in Mexico’s musical ‘evolutionary process’,
and ‘that the process came about in the same way’, although delayed.15 This social
evolutionist thought process, which implicitly regards all civilizations as the same
but lying at different stages of development, underwrote many cultural historical
John Koegel, ‘Music and Theater in Nineteenth-Century Mexico.’ A paper read at the conference
Musical Theater and Identity in Eighteenth-Century Spain and America. Clark Library, UCLA, 28
October 2006, 3.
Otto Mayer-Serra, Panorama de la Música Mexicana. Desde la Independencia hasta la actualidad,
[1941]. Facsimile (Mexico: INBA-CENIDIM, 1996), 74.
Ibid., 25.
explanations, not only of music, which, in the end, failed to account for local
Similar opinions were later replicated by other Mexican historians of
Mexican music such as Gloria Carmona, who, over 40 years later, subscribed to
many of Mayer Serra’s observations regarding nineteenth-century music. Although
Carmona claims that Mexico at the time absorbed the worst of European products
and views, implicitly, one may conclude, this fact accounts for Mexico’s cultural
backwardness. Carmona agrees with Mayer Serra in that the level of Mexican
professional musicians was low, but she displays greater sympathy for Mexican
musicians in that she places part of the blame on the public’s preferences for foreign
over Mexican musicians, despite the fact that the former were often ‘equally
mediocre’. A Mexican musician thus ‘had [received] little stimulus from a public that
he pretended to please and on whom he depended for earning his wages’.16 Mayer
Serra had claimed that the musicians who came to Mexico were probably those who
could not get jobs in Europe because of their poor standard. Regarding composition,
Carmona shares Mayer Serra’s Germanic sympathies, for she considers that
Mexicans imitated ‘the most superficial strokes of Italian opera’, especially Bellini
and Donizetti, and this opera she considers ‘schematic, if we compare it to the
density of German music’.17 Carmona also assesses Mexican salon music as secondclass European compositions. In sum, salon music is deemed unworthy, musically
speaking, and thus the whole phenomenon is discarded. An ‘auto-ethnographic’
attitude of sorts is found in the tone and reasoning of Mexican musicological studies
in its will to please the First World’s musicological mainstream.
Spanish musicological studies have taken similar perspectives and have
reached comparable conclusions regarding the salon and amateur music to those
which I have detected in secondary literature from Mexico. Musicologist Celsa
Alonso considered that music in Spanish salons was ‘only the private practice of the
privileged classes’ which included salon games, dancing, singing and dining. The
salon is rather ‘playful’ with no ‘aesthetic debates’, compared to the ‘intellectual
Anglo-Saxon [sic] and Germanic’ salons. In addition, literary discussion, reading of
verses and dramatic representations were also common. The ‘invasion of Italianism
Gloria Carmona, La música de México, I. Historia. 3. Periodo de la Independencia a la Revolución
(1810 a 1910), ed. Julio Estrada (Mexico: UNAM/Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 1984), 49.
Ibid., 81.
and French customs’ played an important role in Spanish salons; thus the repertoire
that predominated was Italian arias and cavatinas’.18 Alonso deplores the fact that the
French influence on philosophical debates taking place in Spain was much deeper
than German influence. She concurs with the opinions of the Spanish press of the
time, which in my view underrates the actors and repertoire of the salon as (nothing
more than) women who wanted to demonstrate their musical abilities and elegance
and their Spanish gracejo. Several factors constituted, according to the author, a
‘problem’ in the Spanish salon: ‘The invasion of Italian music, frivolity, mediocrity
of musical repertoire depended on the music fashion of the time (based on famous
operatic tunes and of the lowest quality), and the overwhelming weight of the
aficionados.’19 A contemporary article in the Spanish music press called these
amateurs a ‘plague’, which, incidentally, demonstrates the popularity of this type of
salon in Spain in the 1840s, the decade on which the article concentrates.20
Apparently, the Spanish salon was close to that of Mexico in terms of repertoire and
the role of women, as well as the variegated nature of the soirées themselves. As we
have said earlier, and strive to demonstrate in this thesis, we believe that
underestimating the salon in terms of its (lack of) German repertoire or ‘serious’
chamber music leaves the underlying socio-cultural phenomenon unaccounted for
and fails to valorise it within its own social reality. An aspiration of Spanish
musicology to be accepted within the tradition of Germanocentric musicological
studies is a plausible explanation for the repetition of clichés regarding salon music.21
A more nuanced definition of amateurs is the one provided by Paula Gillett
which, despite the different time-frame and location (the late Victorian world) can be
fruitfully applied to the Mexican case.
Amateurs — conventionally defined as those who pursue music-making for intrinsic
gratification rather than as a primary source of income, but on closer examination a
group whose precise constitution is far more elusive—purchased instruments and
sheet music in unprecedented quantities, performed in a variety of private and public
settings, engaged music teachers (mostly) for their daughters, and attended concerts.
Celsa Alonso González, ‘Los salones: Un espacio musical para la España del XIX’, Anuario
Musical: Revista de musicología del C. S. I. C. 48, 1993, 167-8.
Ibid., 169.
Quoted by Alonso González in ibid., 170.
I discussed this topic in depth in the paper: ‘Periphery within the margins: studies of salon music in
Spain,’ unpublished paper presented at the Annual Music Graduate Exchange Conference for the East
and South of England 2006. Department of Music, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham,
They read and discussed music criticism and musical gossip in general-interest
magazines, and many also subscribed to specialized music journals.22
In recent decades the most long-lived Mexican musicological journal Heterofonía
has opened up to wide-raging studies on nineteenth-century musical practices in
Mexico. The journal, founded in 1968, has published a significant number of articles
on nineteenth-century Mexican music, especially since it started a new epoch in
1996: 30 articles by 21 different writers, thus reflecting a growing interest in this
previously neglected area of knowledge. Some of the topics included are archives
and repositories containing nineteenth-century music or specific sources such as
bound volumes or the analysis of specific works—mainly piano and voice and piano
music, also an opera section—or composers’ input. There are articles on visiting
musicians, on reception (Rossini in Mexico), on musical life more generally, or
wide-ranging reflections on, for instance, Classicism or Modernism in Mexico.23 The
variety of topics is not only a sign of different research interests, but also of a vast
uncharted research territory. Recent theses probing this area of study reveal an
increasing interest in this time-period looked at from different perspectives.24 It can
be said that knowledge of nineteenth-century Mexican music is still at the primary
stage of constructing repositories of specific and general information as a prelude to
Paula Gillett, ‘Ambivalent Friendships: Music Lovers, Amateurs, and Professional Musicians in the
Late Nineteenth Century’ in Music and British Culture, 1785-1914: Essays in Honour of Cyril
Ehrlich, ed. by Christina Bashford and Leanne Langley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 321.
For example: Yael Bitrán, ‘Los que no han oído tocar a Herz no saben lo que es un piano. Un
virtuoso europeo en México. Un virtuoso europeo en México,’ Heterofonía 134-135 (2006): 89-108;
Ricardo Miranda, ‘Música de raro encantamiento: los valses de Ricardo Castro,’ Heterofonía 136-137
(2007): 9-26; Joel Almazán, ‘Aproximaciones al lenguaje armónico de Ricardo Castro,’ ibid., 27-43;
Armando Gómez Rivas, ‘El segundo concierto de Ricardo Castro para El Imparcial,’ ibid. 45-56;
Áurea Maya, ‘La verdadera locomotora de la Sinfonía Vapor de Melesio Morales,’ ibid.,57-67; Áurea
Maya, ‘Preludio a Ildegonda de Melesio Morales: narrativa y contenido temático,’ Heterofonía 140
(2009): 11-41; John G. Lazos, ‘Gómez, Antonio: el maestro de los maestros, o ajonjolí de todos los
moles,’ ibid., 77-100; Jesús Herrera, ‘La música infantil para piano del maestro Morales: ópera y baile
en el romanticismo mexicano,’ ibid., 101-124. See also additional Heterofonía articles by John
Koegel, Ricardo Miranda and Joel Almazán in the bibliography.
There are two relevant history theses on the Nineteenth-century Mexican musical press: ‘Una
cultura en movimiento: la prensa musical de la ciudad de México (1866-1910),’ Licenciatura thesis
(Mexico: UNAM, 2002); and Luisa del Rosario Aguilar Ruz, ‘La imprenta musical profana en la
ciudad de México (1826-1860),’ Master’s thesis (Mexico: UNAM, 2011); one on Nineteenth-century
women composers by María Guadalupe Castro Guzmán, ‘Compositoras mexicanas de 1850 a 1917,’
Licenciatura [undergraduate] thesis (México: Conservatorio Nacional de Música, 2003). See also
Emilio Casco Centeno, ‘Julio Ituarte (1845-1905),’ Master’s thesis (Mexico: Universidad
Veracruzana, 2004), including a catalogue of works; and Miriam Laura Vázquez Montano, ‘El
modernismo en la obra para piano de Castro, Elorduy y Villanueva’ Master’s Thesis (Mexico:
Universidad Veracruzana, 2006). G
formulating explanations that provide a more substantive and analytical view of the
Specifically relevant to this work is the research of Mexican musicologist
Ricardo Miranda. Miranda’s work on nineteenth-century Mexican music has
effectively opened up the field to deepen the knowledge of this period. He takes
account of the diversity and value of the nineteenth-century repertoire and
contributes to a more general appreciation of the period in Mexican music. Miranda
has analysed Mexican nineteenth-century piano pieces and voice and piano pieces,
and has even recorded some of them, demonstrating their musical and aesthetic
value. In an article entitled ‘A tocar señoritas’, Miranda has called attention to the
fact that nineteenth-century Mexican historiography has seen the repertoire of that
century, especially salon music, either as an antecedent of nationalism or as a proEuropean or pseudo-European music, accused of lack of quality and development.
The author strives to demonstrate the diversity of the works themselves, indicating
that ‘each work reveals a distinctive trait’—for instance, the rhythmic variety he
finds in the study of 50 Mexican mazurkas.25 However, overall he discovers what he
calls ‘a disconcerting lack of musical development’ and ‘a series of shared
elements—rhythmic configurations, harmonic progressions, structural sequences,
melodic designs and a more or less limited range of tonalities—to the point of
fettering the task of telling the difference between one composer and the next’.26 If
we add to this last idea his defence of the Mexican salon music as a ‘socio-musical
repertoire that extends from danceable to concert pieces that sketches an aesthetic
trajectory leading to […] a showy repertoire of simple music and immediate
evocative capacity, deeply Mexican for no evident reason[…]’,27 we are left with an
ambivalent, almost apologetic, assessment of this repertoire which, it seems, needs to
compensate for its lack of intrinsic musical value with a nostalgic veil of vague
Mexicanism. In addition, in his approach to salon music, Miranda falls prey to a
traditional view concerning women and music: ‘The repertoire destined for women
neither intended to indulge in technical advances nor in any other kind of innovation,
Ricardo Miranda, ‘“A tocar señoritas” in Ecos, alientos y sonidos: ensayos sobre música mexicana
(Mexico: Universidad Veracruzana-Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2001), 109-114.
Ibid., 115, 122.
Ibid., 92.
but simply intended to present a musical sample that proved conducive to the
ephemeral pleasure of a sociable afternoon get-together’.28
By contrast, researching this thesis has proved the intensity of the home
music phenomenon and the importance it held in the lives of its participants and of
those around them, as manifest in texts of the time. Together with an undeniable
variety of repertoire, these factors are indications of a musical experience of
significance—personal, social and even in identity formation processes—that we
foreground and reinterpret from a modern-day standpoint. That standpoint inevitably
involves invoking the most recent writings on women and music, and the relation
between men, women, and artistic experience. Gender studies related to nineteenthcentury music has been an area widely explored in the Anglo-American world. Some
of those works such as those by Richard Leppert, Paula Gillett, Ruth Solie, Phyllis
Weliver, Katharine Ellis and Mathew Head among others, helped to cement the
connections between gender and music in this thesis.29
However, gender studies take us only so far. When studying subjects involved
in the unequal relations between centre and peripheries of the Western world,
postcolonial perspectives help to fragment monolithic images of unilateral influx.30 A
common image that needs to be challenged is that of Europe as an omnivorous preexisting universal power that dominated the Americas for centuries without being
contested or affected. Without ignoring the obvious inequity in imperialistic
relations, the interaction between Europe and Latin America went beyond a
unilateral dominion and can be more precisely described as a circular relation of
mutual influences and constructions.
Ibid., 114.
Richard Leppert, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation and the History of the Body (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1995); Gillett, ‘Ambivalent Friendships’; Ruth Solie, Music in Other
Words. Victorian Conversations, California Studies in 19th-Century Music (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 2004); Phyllis Weliver, ‘Music, crowd control and the female performer in Trilby’ in
The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction ed. by Sophie Fuller and Nicky Losseff (Aldershot: Ashgate,
2004), 57-80, and Women Musicians in Victorian Fiction, 1860-1900. Representations of Music,
Science and Gender in the Leisured Home (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000); Katharine Ellis, ‘Female
Pianists and Their Male Critics in Nineteenth-Century Paris,’ Journal of the American Musicological
Society 50, No. 2/3, (1997), 353-385; and Matthew Head, ‘“If the Pretty Little Hand Won’t Stretch”:
Music for the Fair Sex in Eighteenth-Century Germany,’ Journal of the American Musicological
Society, Vol. 52 (1999), 203-254.
I follow Nelly Richard in her article ‘Cultural peripheries: Latin America and postmodernist decentering’ in The Postmodernism Debate in Latin America, ed. by Michael Aronna, John Beverley
and José Oviedo (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1995), 217-22, when talking about Latin America as a
cultural periphery.
The way Europe was ‘constructed’ as the dominant cultural power, and the
binaries created in the process, are themes developed in complementary ways by
authors such as Bill Ashcroft, Otmar Ette and Walter Mignolo. Silvia Spitta suggests
the term ‘transculturation’, coined by Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz in 1940,
to replace the term ‘acculturation’.31 While acculturation implies a unilateral flow of
cultural products from Europe to America, transculturation involves a more complex
two-sided process that, according to Ortiz’s account of the Cuban case, included: ‘1Partial loss of culture by all immigrant groups, 2-concomitant assimilation of
elements from other cultures (European, African and Asian) and 3-the creation of a
new, Cuban, culture’.32 Spitta draws attention to the specific contexts one should
keep in mind when using the term transculturation, as well as the fluidity of cultures
in Colonial contexts.
A culture that becomes static is doomed. Likewise, a rigid imperial power, a power
unwilling to absorb foreign elements, is not viable. Vital cultures invariably and
necessarily transform themselves over time and under the impact of foreign
influences.[In addition] subjectivity and identity—particularly for Latin America and
other Colonial contexts—must be understood as historical and cultural constructs
that are always in flux, split between two or more worlds, cultures and languages.33
For Bill Ashcroft, the ‘imagining’ of Europe is made possible only by means of
facing the question of America. The sense of superiority in the Old Continent was
triggered by the invasion of new territories, hence setting them apart through ‘a
difference which was taken to be superiority’.34 Thus was born the binarism
‘modern‒traditional’ that provided the basis for Eurocentrism. Ottmar Ette further
claims that discovering the New World really meant the discovery of Europe by the
Europeans: ‘Europe is always defined through her peripheries and movements; it
Bill Ashcroft, ‘Modernity’s First-Born: Latin American and Post-Colonial Transformation’ in El
debate de la postcolonialidad en Latinoamérica: una postmodernidad periférica en el pensamiento
latinoamericano, Alfonso de Toro/ Fernando de Toro eds., TCCL-Teoría y crítica de la Cultura y
Literatura. Investigaciones de los signos culturales. Semiótica-Epistemología-Interpretación
(Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert Iberoamericana, 1999), 13-29; Ottmar Ette, ‘Europa como movimiento.
Sobre la construcción literaria de un asunto fascinante,’ trans. by Meter Storandt Diller in Política,
identidad y narración, ed. by Gustavo Leyva (Mexico, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana/Miguel
Ángel Porrúa, 2003), 319-362; Walter Mignolo, The Idea of Latin America Blackwell manifestos
(Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), x-xx; and Silvia Spitta, ‘1. Transculturation and the Ambiguity of Signs in
Latin America’, Between Two Waters. Narratives of Transculturation in Latin America (Houston, TX:
Rice University Press, 1995), 1-28.
Spitta, ‘I. Transculturation,’ 6.
Ibid., 8. Spita draws from the book by José María Arguedas, El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo.
Ashcroft, ‘Modernity’s First-Born,’ 17.
would probably not even be imagined without extraEuropa’.35 For Ette, Europe is
most of all ‘movement’ rather than geography. Walter Mignolo takes a similar
perspective from the Americas’ standpoint. He claims that the Americas started to
exist only after the conquest ‘as a consequence of European Colonial expansion and
the narrative of that expansion from the European perspective, the perspective of
modernity’.36 According to Mignolo, modernity is linked to Coloniality in
inextricable ways, and he proposes the concept of ‘the logic of Coloniality’, which
remains in place long after actual Colonialism is gone. Mignolo thinks along similar
lines to Ashcroft when he claims that Europeans considered ‘Latin’ Americans as
‘second-class Europeans who lacked the science and sophisticated history of
These perspectives underline the violence exerted by the European powers
upon the lands and peoples of Latin America while they also emphasize the effects
this contact had on the European powers. Postcolonial methods and studies have
been applied mainly to Colonial contexts where the unequal encounter is evident and
the differences between the entities coming into contact are radical. These ideas have
hardly been put to use regarding nineteenth-century encounters between European
powers and Latin American emerging nations, where the ‘colonized’ subjects are
already part of Western culture by language, commerce, culture, religion, etc., and,
while they want to belong to the Western world, are precisely looking for their own
political and more generally cultural specificity through independence movements.
Pratt has done work on this area in her studies of nineteenth-century
European travellers to Latin America, who greedily looked at America for profit and
lacked their Colonial predecessors’ moral or religious justification. The travellers
showed intolerance to what their forerunners idealized: unexplored nature and
‘primitive’ societies. They regarded the material backwardness of these countries as
a failure and acted as ‘capitalist vanguards’. ‘Ideologically, the vanguard’s task is to
reinvent America as backward and neglected, to encode its non-capitalist landscapes
and societies as manifestly in need of the rationalized exploitation the Europeans
bring’.38 Pratt defines the ‘contact zone’ as a space of Colonial encounters ‘involving
conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict’, which is ‘an
Ette, ‘Europa como movimiento,’ 342.
Mignolo, The Idea of Latin America, xi.
Ibid., xvii.
Ibid., 151-2.
attempt to invoke the spatial and temporal copresence of subjects previously
separated by geographic and historical disjunctures, and whose trajectories now
Pratt’s idea of the constructedness of the subjects in their relations to one
another is valuable when dealing with cultural matters such as music. These ideas are
particularly useful when applied to nineteenth-century visiting musicians to Mexico.
As we establish in Chapter Five, Henri Herz’s economic interests prevailed in
precisely such a capitalist manner. In his case, the ‘contact zone’ was fraught with
interests on the part of the musician, but also on the part of the local actors
welcoming him. Some of the issues raised by the reencounters of former Colonial
subjects with cultural ambassadors of the European musical world included
negotiations of meaning: —the local, the national, the international, the
cosmopolitan—, and the dissimulation of inequality on both sides in order to obtain
what was coveted: fame and money on the part of the visitors, and to get the
maximum advantage of the work opportunities the musician provided.
The complicated balance between independence, originality, will to
integration, the continuities of power structures, definitions of the foreign and the
local, is not easily defined by binaristic explanations. The Mexican bourgeoisie was
in the process of constructing a national identity by refashioning: rejecting, resisting,
adapting, inventing European ideas and practices and by searching their own
background, historical, cultural and present, including their conflicted relation with
the European powers. There were different, conflicting, ideas about what becoming a
nation within the international community meant, and what the Mexican self was.
The dominating elite, replacing the colonial one, was not constructing an inclusive
democratic society, but rather a highly stratified one, where liberal and conservative
parties debated, among other issues, the nature of important issues such as religion,
the best government system for the country, the role of women, and education.
By performing a culturally-situated reading of sources this thesis takes a
different approach from that of traditional music analysis. It focuses on the way
people, through their own artefacts and ideas, expressed music in print and
experienced it. This is an especially valuable and valid approach when dealing with
typically silenced subjects such as women, who had virtually no access to direct
Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 6-7.
means of expression and whose experiences were mainly of an indirect and
fragmentary nature. This work reconstructs and recreates, from a contemporary
perspective a meaningful world of musical enjoyment, as well as occasional pain and
disappointment, within Mexico’s nineteenth-century musical community. Thus, the
theatrical and home musical life gain a place within identity-construction issues as
well as offering comparative perspectives with the Old World’s musical worlds.
The thesis begins in the home of the nineteenth-century Mexican upper
classes and introduces its main subject: musical women. From the home it moves to
public spaces—the theatres—and deals with the interaction between these spaces. On
the way, we become acquainted with men who played an important role in the
education of women and in the creation of spaces for the development of their
musical inclinations. These mentors’ belief in the importance of music education for
men and women is closely related to their conviction that music was to bear upon the
process of nation building. The reading of primary sources uncovered that the
construction of a national identity impinged on all areas of Mexican life, not least on
the reworking of traditional gender roles. Women in music and identity construction
are intertwined issues within a social-cultural-musical world that is probed in
multifaceted ways throughout this work.
The importance of women of the upper classes in the development of Mexico
City’s secular musical world after independence is far more considerable than
previously recognised. The home was the locus where women developed their
musical skills and where they were allowed to participate actively in music.
Women’s participation as amateur and semi-professional musicians was the driving
force of domestic music-making and the professional and economic activities related
to it. Sheet music, related literature and music manuals were printed and sold for
their needs. Professional musicians, national and foreign, worked as their private
instructors and some of them opened schools to cater to their musical needs.
Composers wrote pieces directed to them, and saw them published and distributed
thanks to an emerging market revolving around them. Women made their fathers,
husbands and relatives invest in the music field—a field that, as long as it was
properly framed, men regarded as a positive part of women’s upbringing and moral
education. Women’s devotion to music is manifest in the soirées, which they
organised, and, among games, dance, food and conversation, amateur and
professional musicians interacted, played together, conversed about music, and
commented on the latest performance at the theatre or the opera that was coming up.
Women were essential as a public in the music performances organised in theatres,
as can be seen by the publicity the impresarios targeted at them. After opera
performances, women emulated the hairdos and dresses of prima donnas; they asked
for adaptations of their favourite opera arias to play and sing at home; and they
invited singers and musicians to perform in their homes. As indicated in the sources,
these women were serious and passionate about music and reading, to such a degree
that sometimes they neglected the roles traditionally assigned to them.
Mexican women of the period under research are present throughout this
work, but they are the main subject of Chapter One. Their relationship to the
production and reception of music has been overlooked, their having been regarded
as mere jolies meubles de salon,40 to use a phrase concocted at the time but somehow
still present in contemporary studies of nineteenth-century music history. While
women’s musical talents were, in effect, mainly, although by no means exclusively,
relegated to private spaces, their participation as consumers, theatre audiences and
quality music performers deserves a second look that might convert them into
protagonists rather than merely decorative elements of musical culture. Women were
not citizens in a political sense, but they exerted a considerable influence within
private moral terrain. The importance of women’s education was a field where
secular authorities gradually interfered with the traditional predominance by religious
institutions after independence. In fact, women were in charge of fostering moral,
religious and patriotic values in childhood and youth, such that the content of the
knowledge and values they transmitted had to be regulated by means of the education
they themselves received. European influence from conservative and liberal
standpoints concerning woman’s position in society and how best to educate her took
the form of pamphlets (locally published, in translation) which included different
notions of ‘Romantic sensibility’ that advocated the restraining of women’s liberties
and reinforcement of their traditional roles; while others stemming from liberal
sources claimed for a greater presence of women in public areas, even in the political
arena. These ideas served to expand women’s mental and sentimental universe. The
practice of music in the home formed an important and positive part in women’s
lives as long as it did not interfere with their household chores and duties. I
El Cosmopolita, 11 July 1840.
demonstrate that women found ways of transcending traditional roles and thereby
managed not only to construct their identity as women but also to contribute to the
unfolding of Mexico City’s secular musical world. The relation between women,
music and identity construction is additionally exemplified in this chapter via
analysis of a Mexican play by Fernando Calderón, None of the Three.
The enormous amount of sheet music printed in Mexico and imported into the
country, as well as an active market of piano sales, which we explore in Chapter
Two, attests to the popularity of the practice of home music making. The names of
the pieces contained in them, the dedications, the illustrations and the technical level,
all indicate the consumer that composers and publishers had in mind: female amateur
musicians. During the 1840s alone, there were at least six magazines that published
sheet music for their women readers: El Mosaico Mexicano, (1840), Semanario de
las Señoritas, (1841). Panorama de las Señoritas, (1842), El Museo Mexicano o
Miscelánea Pintoresca, (1843-1844), Presente amistoso dedicado a las señoritas
mexicanas by Ignacio Cumplido (1847). This was in addition to the more specialized
paper by José Antonio Gómez, El Instructor Filarmónico. Periódico Semanario
Musical, in which during the year 1843 alone, he published close to 50 different
scores for piano, guitar and/or piano and voice. Musical albums that women lovingly
put together to preserve the pieces and organise them according to their tastes and
needs, are our window onto this now lost musical and female-centred world.
Iconographical, together with musical, analysis proves a valuable tool in the
appraisal of sheet-music as symbolic objects in the salons of Mexican upper-class
homes. The chapter also explores the socialization of music in soirées, where dance
held a central position.
The waning of the Church’s overbearing power after the Bourbonic reforms
and Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1808 endowed not only music but also
musicians with wider opportunities for circulation. Once the dissolution of the
Spanish empire ensued musicians previously, or currently, employed by the Church
actively promoted music in different forms and secular spaces outside ecclesiastical
walls. Chapter Three explores the lives and trajectories of specific Mexican
musicians, both male and female, illustrating how they contributed to the
construction of a musical secular life, and how, in turn, music shaped their lives.
Mariano Elízaga, José Antonio Gómez and Agustín Caballero are cases in point in
this chapter. Mariano Elízaga was the first musician of independent Mexico who
worked as not only a theorist, teacher, composer and organist but who also founded
his own music school and printing shop in the 1820s. Elízaga was headed with clear
conscious in the direction of a Mexican musical profiling that José Antonio Gómez
further developed during the next decades. In his career and musical education,
Gómez combined composition, performance and the publication of scores for home
and theatre consumption, the organisation of concerts in private and public, secular
as well as religious, spaces. This array of activities provides evidence of a man of his
times who knew how to combine his passion—the art of music in a broad sense—
with the ability to earn a living, and who also had a clear idea of the role music was
to play in the new country. Agustín Caballero, too, went to great pains all his life to
educate Mexican youth, especially women, in the art of music, for he believed this to
be a civilizing and patriotic endeavour. Caballero was named the first director of the
National Conservatory at its foundation in 1866. For the first time in Mexican music
historiography, this chapter deals with how several women, students of these
teachers, constructed, as amateurs, semi-professionals or professionals, a place for
themselves in a hitherto closed professional music world. There were very few
professional women at the time. Exceptionally, families supported young women to
venture into professional life, especially when they were in financial need and their
daughters’ talents could bring additional income to their households. These
professional women performed in private and public settings, composed and taught
music, and were pioneers in the difficult opening-up of paths for future generations
of professional women musicians. Their uneven trajectories are fascinating because
of the social tensions surrounding them, together with gender and musical issues, and
the questions they raised in the Mexican society of the 1840s and 1850s.
Upper-class Mexicans loved opera. It formed a central and daily part of their
lives, being present in literature, in the fashion exhibited in women’s journals, in the
public discussions found in diaries and newspapers editorials, and, of course, in
theatre performances themselves. Chapter Four is dedicated to this operatic world of
the Mexican capital from the 1820s to the 1850s, and studies a widely-disseminated
operatic repertoire, visiting companies—in particular the one of Spanish tenor
Manuel García—, performance and reception issues, including behaviour in the
theatre. We have found evidence that it was the home and the home formats that
contributed to make this musical transition feasible by facilitating previous
knowledge of the ‘new’ repertoire, which often came first to the home and later to
the theatre. This research documents countless Mexican piano and piano and voice
arrangements of opera sections or even complete opera arrangements for voice and
piano that antedate their performance in the theatre. The chapter considers the
operatic phenomenon as a whole, the circulation of music between home and theatre,
and deals with issues related to the construction of a civil society, including gender
aspects, within Mexican identity formation. It was a shared belief of the upper
classes that music, and especially opera, had an educational and civilising power in
the new Mexican society. A vigorous operatic world was one means to join the
Western community of nations, an objective the dominating elite held in high regard.
In that respect, good behaviour in the theatres, reasonable quality of performances,
compliance with rules on the part of the audience, performers, impresarios and
authorities, became crucial elements in the held ideal of opera as a civilising means.
In this view, the European world of opera became sometimes an elusive paradigm or
sometimes a rather conveniently idealised entity, with different actors of Mexico’s
musical community alluding to it according to their own interests. As Chapter Four
demonstrates, the ideas about practices in European operatic centres became ideals
which might not, and most probably would not, be attainable but gave the person(s)
voicing them an authority over the rest and became an (imaginary) beacon toward
which operatic Mexican civilisation ought to direct itself.
Chapter Five is a case study of the visit of the eminent piano virtuoso and
composer Henri Herz who toured Mexico in 1849 and 1850. In Mexico, Herz
promoted the composition of a national anthem, insisted on the importance of
collecting local melodies, and composed a popular national march. This chapter
analyses the musical impact of his stay in the country, especially concerning issues
of gender and identity. Post-colonial theory is applied to this case in order to
demonstrate how the pianist acted as a modern coloniser and Mexican as colonised
subjects. In addition, this chapter contends that Herz’ tour profoundly renovated
Mexican musical life and debate and brought familiar questions about salon music
and women to the fore in yet another new guise.
Chapter 1
‘An excess of sensibility’. Constructing Women’s Identity
in Romantic Mexico
During 1849, El Álbum Mexicano (The Mexican Album), a lavishly illustrated
magazine for women, published its ‘Balanza amorosa’ (Scales of Love), a kind of
commercial catalogue intended to keep its public abreast of ‘love’s ups and downs in
the city’. Its author rather mischievously announced that its purpose was ‘one day
[to] have a complete statistical analysis of love, which will most certainly be a
veritable social improvement’. 1 The article defines different categories of women
and fixes their position in the market. In general terms, the definitions reveal that a
traditional Mexican education for women is preferred over the pernicious effects of
foreign influence, which causes them to abandon their domestic duties and to become
absorbed in romantic day-dreaming. Some of the entries include references to music:
Buenas (good women): for motherhood, as well as going to polkas and tending to the
sick. Tender without affectation.
Note: there are many of these women; the problem is finding them.
Enmarañadas (complicated women): but affectionate; sensitive, but at home they go
around with their stockings around their ankles, their tunics hiked up around their
waist and their fingers yellow from cigarettes.
Notes: there are many, but those who go after them are sub-lieutenants on indefinite
leave, guitarists, dancers, two-bit composers and widowers overwhelmed by
energetic offspring.
Filarmónicas (Philharmonic women): this item, previously not much in demand, is
held in high esteem in the latest opera productions: […]Murguía2 sells innumerable
works by Rossini, Bellini, Verdi, Marzan, Valadez, etc. Most of these women are
sensitive and expert: they like to drape their heads with woollen shawls, and they
love los cajeritos de la Monterilla.3 Not one of them talks about anything to do with
cooking or domestic aptitude, because it is obligatory to neglect everything that has
no relation to sol-fa.
Notes: there are many and orders are in for more.4
Tonistas: 5 this article has been restored to the market by soirées, some high-end
parties, the imitation of all things foreign, and operas... The low cost of marabou
El Álbum Mexicano, Periódico de literatura, artes y bellas letras I (1849), 86-87. The article was
also printed in El Siglo XIX (28 Jan. 1849), an influential newspaper published by the Álbum’s editor
Ignacio Cumplido.
The most prolific music publisher in the city at the time.
Calle de la Monterilla, a commercial street where printing and other shops were located. What
‘cajerito,’ literally little box, stands for, we do not know.
El Álbum Mexicano, 86.
Unlike the other entries there is no definition here. It most likely refers to amateur singers.
feathers6 and gold braid, as well as the abundance of seamstresses and tailors, have
lent them a temporary surge in popularity. Due to kisses and other antics, they can be
found only among makeshift decent folk. […]
Notes: This article is scarce: no market, rarely requested. (1.1, p. 307)7
On the one hand, the article’s level of detail reflects careful observation of women’s
behaviour and habits, displaying an intense interest in them. On the other, the lighthearted and nonsensical tone indicates that women should not be taken too seriously.
Nonetheless, the anonymous author dwells on what he sees as the more common
defects of women from the upper classes: an independent will, which was associated
with an excessive fondness for theatre-going, music-making and reading Romantic
literature. The writer felt that these types of behaviour could produce decay in
women’s morals and reprehensible attachments to luxury goods.
The journal is illustrated with the magnificent Les fleurs animées—coloured
illustrations of women metamorphosed into flowers by illustrator and cartoonist Jean
Jacques Grandville, and first published in France two years earlier.8 Each womanflower—cornflower and poppy, lily, pansy, tobacco, tulip, rose, daffodil, violet,
etc.—represents a different type of woman. Women and flowers were a favourite
Romantic literary association. They brought to mind the passing beauty of young
women while displaying them as frail objects to look at.
Used to decorate ladies’ dresses.
See ‘Appendix B. Original Spanish quotes’. Hereafter the translated Spanish quotes will have in
parentheses the reference to the quote number followed by the page number as they appear in
Appendix B.
Paris, Martinon, 1847.
Figure 1. Jean Jacques Grandville, Pensée (Pansy),
Les fleurs animées (1847)
In the Mexican publication, the editor Ignacio Cumplido decided to keep the
illustrations but to remove the original text by Taxile Delord. Instead, he requested
appropriate accompanying texts from some of the main writers of the Romantic
literary school in Mexico: the Academia de Letrán. These writers were involved in
the construction of ‘Mexican-ness’, and French sources were a favourite model to
naturalise by adaptation to Mexican reality.
Within the boundaries of a male-dominated society, and far from striving for
gender equality, nineteenth-century Mexican women experimented with attitudes that
opened up new intellectual and emotional options, beyond, or at least parallel to,
their traditional roles. The anxiety these changes provoked in contemporary men is
clearly reflected in the profusion of ‘advice’ articles, poems, short stories, novels and
plays that continuously reminded women of their ‘proper’ role as housewives and
mothers and predicted dim prospects for those who let their emotions rule their lives.
The position taken by the Álbum is representative of how men described women in
Mexican publications: an idealization through drawings and poems accompanied by
ruthless criticism formulated in sarcastic and derogatory tones, as well as
prescriptive, often paternalistic, advice about their behaviour. A tension existed
between the traditional roles of women, associated with the recently extinguished
condition of Mexico’s colonised past under Spanish rule, and the newer and less
familiar ideas emanating from post-revolutionary Europe as disseminated in the
Mexican press. These contradictory ideas occupied the same printed space.
Within the prevailing value system, music was closely and positively
associated with women, especially of the upper classes, so long as it did not interfere
with their traditional roles. While one can find similarities between the AngloAmerican Victorian world and Mexico regarding the defining features and role of
upper-class women in relation to music, there are some differences. In both cases
music, unless regulated by men, became a negative influence on women’s lives. In
Mexico, however, the emphasis was placed on women neglecting their roles as
housewives rather than on music’s morally dubious role and its power to pervert
them, although the latter aspect was not altogether absent.
Educating girls in independent Mexico: between the ‘superficial arts’ and a
‘solid and extensive instruction’
In 1782, during the last decades of colonial rule in Mexico, the city council opened
its first free primary schools for boys and girls (taught separately). Hitherto, royal
schools and church-run educational institutions had educated Mexican children and
youth. The royal schools were for the Spanish and Indian elite, while the church,
although mainly geared toward the upper classes, ran schools for poorer segments of
society. Nevertheless, until the 1830s, lessons would take place in all kind of locales,
including churches, private rooms and abandoned hospitals, and it was not yet
deemed essential to have appropriate fittings such as light, ventilation or toilets.
During the course of the century, as the institution of the family became more
important and involved itself in school life, things began to change. Also, after
independence, a myriad of private schools offered their services in the newspapers
for girls, boys or coeducational.
Differentiated education for boys and girls continued until 1889 when at the
First Pedagogical Conference the national curriculum was unified for both sexes.
According to Aguirre Loera, until then girls were especially deprived of studying
subjects such as law, science and calculus.9 In addition, rural families offered strong
resistance to sending their children, of either sex, to school, for children were
See María Esther Aguirre Loera, ‘Una invención del siglo XIX. La escuela primaria (1780-1890)’ in
Diccionario de la educación en México, coord. Luz Elena Galván Lafarga (Mexico: UNAM, 2002)
Accessed 15 01 2011, <>.
necessary helping hands at home and in the fields. Several proposals and laws
relating to public instruction decreed in 1842, 1867 and as late as 1888 respectively,
were unsuccessful in solidly establishing primary school as compulsory.10
That municipal authorities of Mexico City were taking an interest in the
education of girls is evident from the issue of a Decree on Primary Schools published
by the Federal District First Constitutional Mayor, Manuel Reyes Veramendi, in
1848. Music was an important part of the primary curriculum, which specified that
‘vocal and instrumental’ music should be included. It seems that the government was
trying to catch up with what private schools were already doing: in the section
concerning the ‘Education of girls’, public officials claimed that from then on:
No effort shall be spared in order for it to become even more complete than that
provided in Europe’s best schools, since it will encompass a great number of
mechanical crafts that are as pleasant as they are lucrative.
The teaching of French language, drawing and vocal and instrumental music
shall form a specific part of the girls’ education plan.11 (1.2, p. 307)
Although education became a prime State interest, the extent to which the
government could offer it was limited, mainly due to financial problems.
With the arrival of French teachers after the 1830s, according to Valentina
Torres Septién, more private schools aimed at the upper classes began to open.12 The
mid-1840s saw a boom in advertisements for girls’ private schools, many of them
announcing themselves as ‘French’. The label ‘French’, liberally applied in private
school advertisements should probably not be taken too literally: sometimes it was
merely an indication of the provenance of the school’s Principal or of the teaching of
French language, rather than an indication that a broader French model was being
adopted. More generally, however, it can be read as a statement of superiority and
cachet offered by the school as an additional incentive to the Mexican elite, which
used their cultural proximity to Europe as a way of distinguishing themselves from
the lower classes.
The governing elite in Mexico believed that a ‘formal attachment’ to the
normal ways of doing things in the capitals of Europe, especially Paris, would assist
El Monitor Republicano, 28 Jan. 1848.
Valentina Torres Septién, ‘Educación privada en México’ in Diccionario de la educación en
México, coord. by Luz Elena Galván Lafarga, México, UNAM, 2002. Accesed 15 01 2011,
in bringing civilisation to Mexico. If science and technology lagged behind in the
newly-independent countries, manners could be more easily matched. To be ‘wellbred’ was synonymous with being ‘civilised’. Novels also played a civilising role by
educating via positive role models and condemning negative characters. There was a
social dimension to educational novels and etiquette books whereby the criollos
could legitimate their newly-acquired power by a way of behaving that differentiated
them from the lower classes.13
The Mexican novelist, journalist and political writer, Joaquín Fernández de
Lizardi, a Europhile and one of the first to write about education in independent
Mexico, insisted he was writing ‘with the hope of correcting some of the foolish and
superstitious practices connected with the rearing of young children’. In his 1818
picaresque novel, La Quijotita y su prima, where he deals specifically with the
education of girls, he argues in favour of educating them at home, since at school the
association with undesirable people of doubtful morals could be unfortunate.14
Fernández de Lizardi was clearly influenced by Rousseau’s Emile. 15 He is especially
opposed to those private primary schools called amigas (literally ‘female friends’)
that were set up in private homes and catered for up to 40 or 50 children. They were
the most common type of institution where, if at all, girls would be sent.16 Fernández
de Lizardi believed girls had nothing to learn in the amigas because all that teachers
did there was to scold them, hit them or mete out other forms of corporal
punishment; they ‘did not teach at all, because either they [the teachers] were never
taught themselves, or they did not have the right disposition, method or commitment
A thorough discussion of etiquette manuals in nineteenth-century Latin America is found in: María
Fernanda ‘El Manual de urbanidad y buenas maneras de Manuel Antonio Carreño: reglas para la
construcción del ciudadano ideal,’ Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies 6 (2002): 83-96.
Popular etiquette manuals during the nineteenth century were written in Mexico and Venezuela and
some reprinted from Spanish manuals.
El Pensador Mexicano [Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi], La educación de las mugeres, o la Quijotita
y su prima. Historia muy cierta con apariencias de novela (Mexico: Librería de Recio y Altamirano,
1842). Originally published in 1818, it was extremely popular and underwent numerous reprints
during the first decades of the century.
Jefferson R. Spell, ‘The Educational Views of Fernández de Lizardi,’ Hispania IX, No. 5, (1926):
263. Spell cites as the main sources for the educational theories current in the first decades of
independent Mexico, Spanish and French authors of the time, all translated and known in Mexico.
They include Montegón’s Eudoxia, o hija de Belisario (Madrid, 1793), Jean Jacques Rousseau’s,
Emile, ou l’education (1762), Jeanne M. Leprince de Beaumont, Lettres, Fénelon, Education de filles
(Paris, 1687). And also Buchan’s Domestic medicine (Edinburgh, 1769) and Ballexerd’s Dissertation
sur l’education physique des enfants depuis leur naissance jusqu’a l’âge de pubérté (Paris, 1762).
Particularly inflluential was Blanchard’s L’Ecole de Mœurs (Lyon, 1782).
Primary school became compulsory for girls and boys in Mexico on 5 February 1917 with the
issuing of the Political Constitution of the United States of Mexico, which is still in operation.
to do it properly’.17 He was one of the first to advocate a more modern type of
education that he believed should aid in diminishing poverty and crime. He
especially condemned the prevalent neglect of women’s education: girls from the
upper classes should learn how to read, write, and work with numbers properly, and
poor girls should learn a trade.18
His only mention in the novel of girls learning music appears in the context of
a warning: girls’ education was important because in times of war women were
vulnerable if they became widows with unmarried daughters who had no trade. The
lack of resources provided ‘incentives that lead to prostitution with such vehemence
that to resist them is necessarily the power of the divine grace’.19 Thus he
recommends that ‘to prevent such fatal consequences’, women, especially poor ones,
learn an ‘art or trade’. He specifically suggests that women could become
seamstresses, musicians, silversmiths, watch-makers, painters and printers. However,
their domestic chores as wives and mothers should always be their first priority.20
An example of the type of education received by young ladies in the amigas
is portrayed in a short story published as late as 1843 in El Museo Mexicano. It
confirms many of Fernández de Lizardi’s concerns. The main character of the
eponymous and anonymous story, Mariquita Castañuela, acquires her bad manners
and dubious behaviour at school:
In the amiga she learned a thousand delights, whether scandals which the pen resists
writing about, whether uttering words in a low voice which are not to be found in
any dictionary or mixing irreligious prayers parodying the popular Ripalda […]
Once out of the amiga, reading badly, writing badly, and with her heart and
intelligence corrupted at the side of servants and teachers, Mariquita plunged
headlong into the novelistic life of youth.21 (1.3, p. 307)
She was a beautiful young woman who had many suitors and who knew how to sing,
and she played the vihuela—associated with low class—in social gatherings. The
moral of the story is that because of neglect and inadequate parenting, Mariquita
ended up poor, lonely—she never married—and miserable in her older days. Music
La Quijotita y su prima as quoted in Spell, ‘The Educational,’ 266.
Ibid., 270-1.
El Pensador Mexicano, ‘La educación de las mugeres,’ 182.
Ibid., 182-3. As we shall see, other instances of the threats of prostitution for young women are
mentioned in Chapter Three regarding professional young singers who, in this fashion, avoided it, and
in Chapter Four, the threat of prostitution appears in regard to theatre closures and the consequent
absence of a decent spectacle for young women.
‘Mariquita Castañuela. Costumbres,’ El Museo Mexicano II (1843), 28.
is mentioned as one of the activities she undertook while wasting away her life in
useless endeavours. In this case no positive value is ascribed to music: since she
practiced it outside the permitted boundaries, it is associated with Mariquita’s
In an open letter of 1841 from Paris, sent by a Mexican father to his son, the
writer agreed with Fernández de Lizardi in that the best possible education for
women is the one provided by ‘the good educated mother’, who by means of her
good example instructs her daughter in the principles of Christianity and morality.22
In what is more a set of moral prescriptions than part of a travelogue, the father
presents his conservative views through an almost certainly hypothetical
conversation with the Principal of a Parisian women’s Academy who, in response to
his questioning, admits the drawbacks of the current French model of women’s
what we end up producing, what we achieve, what fills that extraordinary majority of
individuals who do not think with admiration, is actually [one of] those pretty livingroom furnishings (jolies meubles de salon) that play the harp or the piano, who sing,
paint, speak and understand everything except the business of running their
household, making their husbands happy, bringing up their children properly,
instilling in them the healthy principles of religious morality.23 (1.4, pp. 307-8)
As in the Balanza amorosa article, musical knowledge and practice is recognised as
being widespread among young women while its moral educational value is placed
in a negative light.
With women’s education having passed from the church to the municipality
and especially to private enterprise, advertisements announcing educational options
became common. Here, ‘piano’ and/or ‘singing’ classes addressed to female
customers are ubiquitous. It is significant, for instance, that in 1840 an amiga
publicised as ‘for decent girls’ and run by ‘a lady’ offered exclusively ‘French
language and to play the piano with diligence and efficacy’,24 probably the two
essential skills for well-bred girls according to their upper-class parents. The girls’
schools also provided a clear emphasis on language and the humanities, including
‘A letter from an American father to his son, written in Paris. Drawbacks of the education and
instruction of the youth, as it is practiced nowadays,’ El Mosaico Mexicano V (1841), 471-480.
Ibid., 476.
El Cosmopolita, 11 July 1840.
writing, reading, grammar and history. In an 1844 advertisement for the ‘French
House for the Education of Girls’, the headmistress Doña Isaura de San Vital,
proudly announcing her recent return from New York, offered a much more
ambitious programme including Christian doctrine, reading, English writing,
arithmetic, Spanish, English and French languages, grammar, grammatical analysis,
syntaxes, logical analysis, religious, ancient and modern history, mythology,
geography, drawing, literature, sewing and embroidery, and, of course, piano,
singing and dance. School hours ran from nine in the morning to four in the
afternoon, which points to a rather serious curriculum that would have kept girls
busy, away from home, studying practically all day.25
A similar case is that of the ‘French School for Girls’ opened by Mrs. Gen
and her husband. They advertised that in their school:
Girls shall be attended to with painstaking care, and the directors will spare no effort
to develop their physical, intellectual and moral faculties, infusing them with
knowledge that brightens and adorns their sex, giving lustre to their congenial
affability which contributes so powerfully to families’ happiness and prosperity.26
(1.5, p. 308)
The variety and extensiveness of the curriculum is certainly impressive. The director,
whom we can presume to have been of French origin, was establishing in Mexico an
innovative, highly competitive institution for girls that would have vied with its
European counterparts. The programme of studies was arranged in three divisions or
grades: the first included reading, writing, Christian doctrine, French lessons viva
voce and principles of sewing; the second included in addition Spanish grammar,
French dialogues, the first four rules of arithmetic; the third added Spanish elocution,
French and English language, arithmetic in general, history, geography, logical and
grammatical analysis in Spanish and French, drawing, sewing and embroidery
(including whitework). Music and dance could be learnt at every stage and were to
be paid for additionally. The timetable was demanding, with classes starting at 7am
and lasting until 5pm during springtime and from 8 am to 5 pm in wintertime.27
El Siglo XIX, 14 Nov. 1844. My emphasis.
El Siglo XIX, 23 Jan. 1845.
The timetable is telling of the European origin of the headmistress, since due to the relatively
modest variation in daylight or temperature Mexico did not, and still does not carry a different
schedule for spring or wintertime.
At the end of the year the school would conduct public examinations and
distribution of prizes and would periodically organize ‘concerts so that the parents
can appreciate the progress their daughters have achieved at the piano’.28 Piano was
the only instrument mentioned in this school’s curriculum. In addition, these concerts
were surely also a shop window for the school, to attract new parents. For the end of
the year 1845 public examinations and awards ceremony, the school’s Principal
invited major politicians, Lucas Alamán and José María Tornel, to preside over the
prize giving. Such public visibility within the high circles of politics was probably an
incentive for fathers to pay for their daughters’ music lessons. The repertoire played
is far from elevated, but certainly flashy enough to impress a non-specialized public.
Piano and singing.
First prize granted to Mlle Luisa Gen: Grand variations on the Elisir d’Amore, by
Second prize granted to Mlle Teresa Pradel: Invitation [to the Waltz] by Weber, by
Hünten.29 (1.6, p. 308)
It is frequent, as in an advertisement for an ‘English Academy’ for boys, to be
offered geometry, algebra and trigonometry, which were not deemed feminine
matters.30 Boys would additionally sometimes learn gymnastics or Latin. In contrast
with girls, reference to the ‘English’, rather than the ‘French’, educational model
seems to be most attractive for the parents.31
For poor girls, the church was still the main provider of education, including
convents that provided room and board. That of Las Vizcaínas was vividly portrayed
by Scottish-born Frances Erskin Inglis Calderón de la Barca, who lived in Mexico
from 1838 to 1841.32 An acute observer of Mexican life, Calderón de la Barca
described in detail the different social levels and landscapes of Mexico; she was, in
El Siglo XIX, 23 Jan.1845.
Was Luisa Gen the principal’s daughter? El Siglo XIX, 19 Dec. 1845. There was no prize for
singing, despite the announcement.
El Siglo XIX, 4 Mar. 1845.
‘English’ as manly and ‘French’ as womanly is a tempting idea to embrace, although it certainly
would require a not-yet undertaken detailed study of all elementary educational options of the time
and opinions around them in mid nineteenth-century Mexico.
Fanny married Ángel Calderón de La Barca, Spain’s minister plenipotentiary to the United States,
who in 1838, the year they married, received the appointment as Spain’s first envoy to independent
Mexico. About Calderón de la Barca, see, for instance: June J. Hahner, ‘3. Fanny Calderón de la
Barca. Women’s Lives in Midnineteenth-Century Mexico’ in Women through Women’s Eyes. LatinAmerican Women in Nineteenth-Century Travel Accounts, ed. by June H. Hahner (Los Angeles: SR
Books, 1998), 43-68.
addition, a cultivated woman with a strong penchant for music. She told how girls
learnt ‘sewing, writing, reading, embroidering, or casting up accounts’, noting that in
addition they ‘are taught to cook and iron, and make themselves generally useful,
thus being fitted to become excellent wives to respectable men in their own rank of
life’. Nevertheless, she, too, was treated to music while in the convent:
The Señora G---o sang an Italian air beautifully. She is evidently a scientific
musician. The Señorita H—s played one of Herz’s most difficult combinations with
great execution, and a pretty girl, who is living in a convent, having been placed
there by her novio, to keep her out of harm’s way till he is prepared to give her his
hand, sang a duet with another young lady, which I accompanied.33
Music was taught not only at schools, but also through private music instructors who
offered their services in the local papers. Of eleven advertisements for music lessons
identified between the years 1842 and 1851, nine were from men and two from
women; nine were for piano or piano and singing and the rudiments of music, and
one for guitar.34 Five were anonymous, which deserves an attempt at explanation. It
is possible that the role of music teacher was perceived as a rather lowly job not to be
announced proudly in a public forum, especially if the tutor was in a state of genteel
poverty. Such reserve is perhaps supported by the fact that all of the instructors
proposed to go to their pupils’ homes, and only a few offered lessons in their own
residences. Three of them specifically offered their services to ‘girls’ or ‘young
ladies’ while the rest advertised in more general terms, although, according to a
chronicle by Manuel del Vilar, it was mainly girls who signed up.35 Only one of the
women, Doña Guadalupe Ruiz and one man, Dionisio Montiel, whom I suspect is
foreign, stated the price of the lessons: both charged four pesos a month. Others only
stated their prices as ‘fair’.
If four pesos was an average monthly rate, a music
teacher would have made around 48 pesos per student a year if students paid during
the whole year, which is unlikely. To live from teaching and earn a decent income of
Frances Calderón de la Barca, Life in Mexico [1839-1842], Letter the Eleventh [1840].
London: Chapman and Hall, 1843. Accessed 08 01 2008,
El Cosmopolita, 1 Jan.1842; El Siglo XIX, 19 June 1843, 22 Sep.1844, 23 Oct. 1845 and 5 July
1851; El Monitor Republicano, 26 Oct., 24 and 25 Nov. 1847, 9 Jan., 7 May and 4 July1848.
Manuel Vilar, letter to his brother José Vilar, Mexico City, 2 Oct. 1857, Salvador Moreno, El
escultor Manuel Vilar (Mexico: UNAM/IIE, 1969), 175.
According to José María Pérez Hernández, Estadística de la república mexicana (Guadalajara:
Tipografía del gobierno, 1862) salaries fluctuated between 250 to 3000 pesos a year in the 1860s. Ten
years earlier salaries would have been significantly lower considering wartime inflation.
around 1000 pesos a year, a teacher would therefore have had to have over twenty
permanent students paying a monthly/yearly fee, which suggests there was a
profusion of available students—mostly women, as we know.
From a slightly later period, we can gain another glimpse of practices in
private teaching via the Spanish sculptor and painter Manuel Vilar, who arrived in
Mexico in 1846 to teach sculpture at the San Carlos Academy, and who wrote in
1857 to his brother, who planned to go to Mexico to teach music. Vilar told his
brother that classes lasted one hour for piano, singing or both, and typically took
place every other day. A student would pay 8 to 16 pesos a month, ‘depending on the
merits and reputation of the teacher’.37 It is worth noting that the fees Vilar
mentioned by the end of the 1850s were twice to four times those of a few years
earlier; inflation and an increasing value of the music teaching profession—the
merits of the instructors are invoked—are plausible explanations for the increase in
prices. In an Old World / New World tension we shall encounter in other guises later
in this thesis, the situation was not, however, without its exploitative side. Calderón
de la Barca observed that local musical talent was squandered due to lack of good
instruction, and pointed out the greed of European instructors on the make.
There are a few good foreign masters, most of whom have come to Mexico for the
purpose of making their fortune, by teaching, or marriage, or both, and whose object,
naturally, is to make the most money in the shortest possible time, that they may
return home and enjoy it. The [Mexican] children generally appear to have an
extraordinary disposition for music and drawing, yet there are few girls who are
proficient in either.
Amid the hotchpotch of educational offers for women and despite the prevalence of
traditional ideas, new opinions began to filter into the conservative Mexican
environment after independence. Articles containing such ideas came invariably
from French journals, and their radicalism sharply contrasted with the prevailing
conservative opinions as evidenced in the articles written in Mexico. Significant
examples feature in the Panorama de las Señoritas. Periódico pintoresco, científico y
literario, published in 1842. The Panorama is unique within the Mexican print
spectrum in its determined advocacy for better education and equality of
opportunities for women. Within the Panorama, the many translations from French
Manuel Vilar letter to José Vilar, 175.
Calderón de la Barca, ‘Letter the Twenty-Third’ (1840).
magazines as well as its quasi-feminist tone are apparently attributable to Marie
Deriaz, the Swiss wife of the magazine’s publisher Vicente García Torres.39 It was
certainly unusual for a wife to have so much influence in a periodical. Deriaz’s
agenda seems to be disguised in a woman’s magazine devoted to amusement and in
the fact that the periodical also published conservative, even misogynist articles. In
the prospectus, García Torres claimed that he wanted only to entertain young ladies,
that there would be nothing scientific or philosophical, and that he appealed to
women as mothers, lovers and wives, friends and those who comfort others. The
magazine, however, published two letters on the education of women by Joséphine
Bachellery, written to a woman friend. Bachellery was a Parisian school teacher who
spoke openly and published about women rights and emancipation, and who
embraced socialist ideas. Her description of the former traditional environment of
upper-class girls in France could have been aptly applied to the Mexican society of
the 1840s.
Bachellery claimed that times had changed at such a pace that women
urgently required a new kind of education. The author was probably also calling
attention to the downward social mobility of French upper classes during France’s
constant crisis.
Formerly, the great art in educating women was to keep them in private life in a
preventive situation which forbade them to move or think, and everything was
reduced to infinite precautions and an excessive vigilance. Before anything else,
grandparents were shown the pure name of the family, without any stain. Women
had no other function to exercise other than being a wife and mother, and without
intelligence, she should never leave her domestic hearth. Today, owing to necessity
or luck, one must dispose oneself to rival the instruction of men.40 (1.7, p. 308)
For Mexicans, despite the church–state separation by the mid-nineteenth century,
religion remained at the heart of education, especially for women. However,
according to Bachellery, only ‘a solid and extensive’ instruction could guide women
to make better judgements and decisions in a difficult world, and reason and
consciousness should always accompany religious feeling as the pillars of
This idea is advanced by Montserrat Galí Boadella, Historias del bello sexo. La introducción del
Romanticismo en México (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de
Investigaciones Estéticas, 2002), 160, fn17.
Josefina Bachellery, ‘Sobre la educación de las mujeres. Carta primera,’ Panorama de las Señoritas
(1842), 179-180. The letters were originally published in France in 1838. It is interesting to note that
most of the sources that Bachellery quotes on women’s education are by other women: Madames
Necker, Campan, de Rémusat, Jacotot and Guizot. She also quotes Fénelon and Fourier.
education.41 She believed religious education alone was not apt for modern women,
and since public education remained flawed, it fell to mothers to convey to their
daughters the principle ‘that their intellectual value is equal to that of men’.42
Another article in the magazine, entitled ‘On the influence of women on
politics’, went so far as to support women’s involvement in political affairs, and
sternly criticised the prevailing ways of educating women, and the superficiality it
caused. The article proposed that young men should educate women in the world’s
affairs in order to make women their companions ‘and not their slaves’.43 Such
secular principles and the open expression of ideas of equality between the sexes
were certainly new in Mexican publications, and unusual. The likelihood is that they
aroused disgust in the elite of the male population, and probably in an important
section of the female population too. A propos the men, the same magazine also
published ‘De la influencia del bello sexo’ (On the fair sex’s influence), written by a
man, presumably Mexican, who on the one hand recognized women’s squandered
talents and the need for a more structured and modern education for them while, on
the other, he repeated all the romantic clichés according to which woman’s main role
was to be man’s inspiration: the influence of women is, and should be, through her
love as mother and wife. Certainly, the author found no grounds for equality between
men and women, declaring that ‘the essential cause that drives the fair sex to
servitude should be sought in their intellectual faculties: [for] their imagination [is]
more ardent than ours, more apt to find temporary resources; but passive, without a
creative faculty, little fecund in ideas and of a limited sphere’.44 Ultimately, the
author concludes, the situation is insurmountable due to the woman’s physical
weakness. 45
Panorama de las señoritas died a natural death after a year of publication,
which was a common lifespan for magazines at the time. The publishers had the
opportunity to write and publish a closing notice, which indicates that its
Bachellery, ‘Sobre la educación de las mujeres. Carta segunda,’ 218.
Bachellery, ‘Sobre la educación de las mujeres. Carta quinta,’ 525.
‘De la influencia de las mujeres en la política’, Panorama de las Señoritas, 101. The journal of
origin is quoted as ‘Diario de las mujeres’. I presume this is a French journal that might have been a
Journal des femmes published in France between 1832-1836, whose editors were Mme Émile
Souvestre and Nanine Papot. Reference from Catalogue Bn-Opale plus from the Bibliothèque
Nationale de France. Accesed 28 08 2008.
El Álbum Mexicano, 86-87. The article was also printed in El Siglo XIX , 28 Jan.1849.
‘De la influencia del bello sexo,’ Panorama, 36.
disappearance was not forced by its radicalism.46 Why, one may ask, did the editors
not feel the need to explain the uncomfortable cohabitation of opposing views within
Panorama? The answer may lay in the fact that if at a theoretical level they reflected
on matters of equality and the rights of women, these magazines were not considered
as guides to action. In addition, as mentioned before, in general terms women were
not taken seriously. Bachellery’s radical ideas probably remained isolated and,
according to the slow-changing Mexican panorama on women’s matters, they fell on
a barren soil of views opposing them.
The aspirations for a more active and educated position for women in the
country’s new society were not immediately realized. Despite all the initiatives I
have presented here, women in Mexico did not have generalized access to formal
education until the last decades of the nineteenth century.47 Girls were educated with
dissimilar methods, focus and results. Their supposed sensibility and empathy
remained the virtues most appreciated in women, while these also served as
exclusionary devices. As proved frequently to be the case after revolutions, Mexican
independence did not bring a place for women in the new political configuration;
during the first decades of independent life, the new country became entangled in
liberal versus conservative political debates where women’s status was only
marginally discussed. The participation of educated women in public life remained
mainly limited to religious and philanthropic activities, and although the virtues of
giving girls a more thorough education were recognized, the educational progress
that came as result was kept fundamentally as a private achievement.
In 1840, Calderón de la Barca highlighted the traditional feminine talents of
Mexican women as compensation for their lack of formal education. This neocolonial view draws a clear differentiating, and uncrossable, line between European
and Mexican women:
But if a Mexican girl is ignorant, she rarely shows it. They have generally the
greatest possible tact; never by any chance wandering out of their depth, or betraying
by word or sign that they are not well informed of the subject under discussion.
‘Despedida’, Panorama, 538.
Access to professional education for women in Mexico did not open up until the 1880s. Before that
the only professional activity supported by education for women was as primary school teachers.
María de Lourdes Alvarado, ‘Mujeres y educación superior en el México del siglo XIX,’ Diccionario
de la educación en México, coord. Luz Elena Galván Lafarga, México, UNAM, 2002. Accessed 15 01
2011, <>. Women’s suffrage in
Mexico was only obtained in 1953.
Though seldom graceful, they are never awkward, and always self-possessed. They
have plenty of natural talent, and where it has been thoroughly cultivated, no woman
can surpass them.
We can compare such testimony with that of another witness, J. F. Elton, an
Englishman who joined the French in their Mexican invasion during the 1860s, and
who had been in India as part of the Raj, orientalised Mexican women. Though
dating from a couple of decades after Calderón de la Barca, his description yields
complementary results. The difference is that Calderón is not seduced by Mexican
women’s exoticism, whereas Elton is. His description additionally highlights the
traditional objectified image of women and finally betrays his unease with the
Spanish-Indian racial mix, which actually constitutes the basis for the Mexican
Without an exception the fair sex walk magnificently, and have that thorough-bred
air which so generally characterizes women of Spanish race; they dress, besides,
with exquisite taste, and their black eyes and long eyelashes go far to compensate for
the slovenliness and dirt of the Indian maidens, who appear to be born with a natural
antipathy to water and cleanliness.49
The evidence against effectively-educated women grows if we take on board a
modern study on nineteenth-century Mexican women by historian Montserrat Galí,
whose analysis, based on a literal, and selective reading of contemporary sources,
grants no space whatever for women’s intellectual growth at the time:
With the demise of the Ancien Régime […], it seemed that woman would occupy the
place that the theories of Enlightenment had been proposing for her. The discourse,
however, was not accompanied by liberalizing measures; on the contrary, woman
was enclosed in the new privatized domestic space. In order to convince those who
were reticent about this process, a discourse based on weakness, sweetness, charity,
piety and other natural and innate characteristics of women was forged.50 (1.8, p.
Yet this reading, which is supported by nineteenth-century public discourse, falls
short of accounting for the changes that, however slowly, were indeed taking place in
women’s status. It would be misleading to believe that women were confined to their
Calderón de la Barca, ‘Letter the Twenty-Third’ (1840).
J. F. Elton, With the French in Mexico (London: Chapman and Hall, 1867).
Galí Boadella, Historias, 174.
homes in total submissiveness, and that they subscribed to the restricted and
restrictive views the frequent conservative articles in magazines wanted readers to
believe. The frequency and insistence of prescriptive, threatening, articles aimed at
women’s containment, speaks volumes of the need to remind women of duties with
which they were not fully compliant. Moreover, although there is little testimony
from Mexican women themselves, from the scatterings of available evidence the
least we can imagine is the existence of lettered, cultivated women who were avid
and knowledgeable readers of the profuse amounts of poetry, novels and journals
being published at the time. Musically speaking, as we shall see in Chapter Three,
women managed to cross the boundaries and forge an incipient place for themselves
not only in semi-professional environments but in the professional world.
Women, men and Romantic literature
Contemporary texts were obsessed with defining women. The texts sang woman’s
praises, while prescribing her behaviour and condemning her for not following the
rules implicit in the ideal womanly image.51 These definitions are built upon an
important Romantic tenet: the dichotomy between man and woman, where sensibility
is woman’s ultimate domain while reason is man’s territory. As early as 1826,
Claudio Linatti, the Italian publisher and founder of the first illustrated journal in
Mexico, published his views on woman’s main characteristics in his El Iris: ‘The
flexibility that man has in his spirit, woman has in her heart, and while the former
attends matters with more penetration, the latter probes the effects with a greater
sensibility’.52 In short:
A creature full of imagination and truth, able to ignite the flame of all that is noble,
sensitive to the beauties of creation, to the charms of harmony, so fertile in texts for
tender souls and the illusions of that divine art known as poetry; in short, a being
who disdains adulation and tumultuous applause, let her be content with liking the
sweetness of domestic life.53 (1.9, p. 308)
Similarly, in the Album Mexicano’s story ‘Mariquita Castañuela’, woman is
described in relation to a man’s feelings. Woman was ‘idealised by imagination,
No announcements of Georges Sand’s translation are found at this time in the Mexican newspapers.
El Iris. Periódico crítico y literario, by Linati, Galli and Heredia,Vol. I, (Mexico, 1826) Facsimile,
(Mexico: UNAM/Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas, 1988), 61-62.
El Álbum Mexicano, 109.
debased by Positivism, a prisoner to passionate irony or sarcasm, whether it be the
angel who shelters and accompanies us in the desert of life or the domestic
executioner who mistreats and makes our heart wither like the child who damages
the flower he plays with’.54 The Manichean construction of woman as angel or
demon/whore is a constant in many of the contemporary definitions. There was an
irresolvable abyss between courtship and marriage, even more pronounced when in
the latter woman became sexually available to her husband, prompting a loss of
interest in her. From that point it was, according to the texts, her responsibility alone
to keep her husband by her side, by remaining beautiful and attractive. But together
with marriage came the decay of her beauty and the end of her youth, which
according to Romantic literary idealization were some of women’s most appreciated
These characterizations were not new: they bear clear traces of Rousseau,
who was widely known and read in Mexico from the end of the eighteenth century,
whose political ideas formed the basis of Latin-American independence movements,
and who in his Emile delineates similar differences between men and women.55 This
prescriptive characterization, given that its main aim was educational, can be found
at the base of much of what is written in the nineteenth-century Mexican press and
literature. In Book V of Emile, Rousseau states that men should be active and strong
while women should be passive and weak. Woman was made to please man
according to the law of nature. Woman has to make herself pleasing by charming the
man, and man should use his strength in relation to woman whenever he deems it
necessary.56 A Mexican article titled ‘A warning to the beautiful sex’, reminded
woman that the only weapons she needed in order to get what she wanted from men
were ‘virtue and beauty, her graces, talent and kindness’, because ‘as soon as she
tries to make use of other weapons, she exposes herself to mockery and she will be
brought down and she will always lose’.57
What place can music have in such a scheme? Within Victorian fiction the
angel/demon equation was recurrent. For Richard Leppert: ‘Bourgeois patriarchy,
which defined women by principles governing domesticity, constructed two
‘Mariquita Castañuela,’ 27.
See for instance, Luis Villoro, ‘Rousseau en la Independencia de México’, Casa del Tiempo III, 8
(2005), 55-61.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile, ou l’éducation, Fifth Book. Accessed 18 04 2008,
< >.
‘Un consejo al sexo hermoso’, El Mosaico Mexicano III (1840), 521.
contradictory categories of woman: the privatized angel of the house, not subject to
the pleasured gaze, and her radical public opposite, the prostitute’.58 Interestingly,
music could contribute either to elevate women to an angelic or—to debase her to—
devilish condition: ‘The culprit, as always is female deviousness—in metaphoric
terms, woman’s instability as sign: angel in the house or whore of Babylon. The
culprit is also music’.59 Phyllis Weliver went one step further by finding agency in
women’s roles in Victorian fiction: ‘[t]he coexistence of seraph and demon within a
woman reflected contemporary fears. During the last half of the century, gender
ideals and traditional female roles were questioned, and sensation fiction suggests
that a woman’s use of music is one indication of how she positions herself’.60
In Mexico too, according to contemporary texts, the Romantic woman
escaped the narrow man/woman dichotomy by using her imagination, her reason and
a sense of freedom. She was condemned because by being engrossed in Romantic
activities, pleasing a man within the domestic sphere fell outside her immediate
interest. Unlike women’s sanctioned tasks such as sewing, cooking or even painting,
music-making and reading novels could, and frequently did, become an activity
whose social and moral value was ambiguous. Women could enter a world of their
own whose signifiers escaped an easy reading by those who were in charge of them
and who did not share their intellectual and sentimental universe.
The expansion of Romantic thought, sensibility and cultural practices within
the Mexican bourgeoisie in the form of literary texts, music and fashion, played an
important role in fuelling women’s imagination. According to Galí, this phenomenon
had an impact on all aspects of cultural life. The author includes ‘both material
production (magazines, musical scores, engravings), and cultural practices
(attendance at theatre, social gatherings or evening parties, outings, dances) and of
course—and perhaps most importantly—sensibility, attitudes, gestures and tastes’.61
Romanticism was closer to women because ‘it privileged emotion and intuition
above reason, which, as a consequence, elevated the feminine to a level never
reached before’.62 However, Galí fails to mention that while women expanded their
Richard Leppert, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation and the History of the Body (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1995), 155.
Ibid., 217.
PhyllisWeliver, Women Musicians in Victorian Fiction, 1860-1900. Representations of Music,
Science and Gender in the Leisured Home (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 114.
Galí Boadella, Historias, 15.
Ibid., 26.
intellectual horizons at home, they were also condemned for indulging in activities
that alienated them from their obligations.
Women were incorporated into the ‘lettered contingent’ in the nineteenth
century, and more and more publications included them as a potential reading
public.63 Romantic novels, poems and short stories disseminated through ladies’
journals and literary magazines were popular reading-matter among Mexican
women, and men, of the upper-classes during the 1830s and 1840s, and used music
both as an arbiter of value and as a means of escape for fictional heroines. Romantic
texts, which began being published in translation in the late 1820s, also contributed
to the construction of national identity. These ideas found local rooting in the
‘Academia de Letrán’, the main hub for the Mexican Romantic movement founded
in 1836 by literature instructor José María Lacunza. Its aim was furthering a worthy
national literary expression. The Academia spearheaded an early nationalist
movement in literature, influenced by the costumbrista movement. Mexican authors
began writing stories with a local colour, including reference to a Mexican landscape
of pre-Hispanic ruins, colonial buildings, orientalised cactuses or luscious vegetation.
Thus Romanticism as an ideology that took a part in the fashioning of a national
identity which looked toward the past in order to construct a national mythology, but
also toward the future in its goal of integrating the new country into the concert of
nations.64 When the first Mexican historical novels emerged, during the 1830s, these
short novels dealt mostly with the recent or Colonial past. Authors such as José
María Lafragua, Mariano Meléndez y Muñoz, José Joaquín Pesado, J. R. Pacheco
and Ignacio Ramírez Galván explored this genre; some of them were members of the
Academia de Letrán. According to Alejandro Araujo, this was an incipient stage of
historical novel, whose golden age is during the late 1860s. For my purposes they are
important because they were moralizing in the sense that they aimed to inculcate
‘good taste’ and ‘good mores’ in their public. The past was used to extract models
for action.65 The sources of such Romantic flowering were not what one would
expect in northern Europe. Practically no signs of German Romanticism are to be
Carlos Illades, Nación, sociedad y utopía en el romanticismo mexicano, Sello Bermejo
(Mexico: Conaculta, 2005), 69-70.
It included divergent schools of thought including liberals and conservatives. In 1849 it was
transformed into the Liceo Hidalgo and by 1856 it was dissolved due to internal dissension, at a time
when Romanticism was being superseded by other currents in Mexican literature.
Alejandro Araujo Pardo, Novela, historia y lecturas. Usos de la novela histórica del siglo XIX
mexicano: una lectura historiográfica (Mexico: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Claustro de
Sor Juana, 2009), 49-51, 167-211.
found in the journals before the 1850s. Instead, the most popular and the less familiar
French and English authors of Romantic literature are at the forefront of all
magazines, in Spanish translations. In an advertisement of 1844, the Librería
Mexicana offered the complete works of Byron, Walter Scott and Lamartine, all
translated into Spanish.66 Judging by comments published by the editors of these
magazines,67 these Romantic novels were extremely popular with the Mexican
readership, and we know that this type of publication was aimed at a feminine
readership, as it is clearly stated in their introductory texts.68
According to critics, the fact that women were reading not only religious but
also secular texts was one of the potential dangers brought about by Romanticism.
Manuel Payno was one of the Mexican intellectuals who drew attention to the
potential dangers of unregulated reading. Besides giving recommendations to women
on how to preserve their marriages, in his 1843 text ‘Reflections on Marriage’, Payno
dwelt upon what constituted good and bad literature for them.69 His tone was didactic
and paternalistic, and, probably following Rousseau, he considered women were
similar to children, who lacked discernment and needed advice on how to act
properly. Implicit is the power of literature on people’s minds.
There are women for whom the sight of a book is a cause of ennui—this is not
good—. There are others who devour every novel and worthless piece of paper that
falls into their hands—that is even worse. There is a proposition that claims the
virtue lies in between, and that is the point to be achieved.70 (1.10, p. 308)
If the social usefulness of reading is amply recognised in the article—‘understanding
is fertilised, imagination is awakened, the heart is delighted in it, and boredom runs
away in the presence of a book’—matters are different when dealing with women.
El Siglo XIX, 22 Feb.1844. Although these authors were known in Mexico earlier. Walter Scott´s
Waverley, for instance, was translated and published in Mexico in 1833, by the Cuban writer José
María Heredia.
El Álbum Mexicano, 86-87. The article was also printed in Cumplido’s El Siglo XIX, 28 Jan. 1849.
Galí Boadella claims that a sentimental vein of Romanticism was introduced in Mexico mainly
through literature and music and it was primarily directed toward women. She situates its presence in
the country between 1821 and 1855, Galí Boadella, Historias, 14. Surveying different periodisations,
historian Carlos Illades has found that Mexican literary romanticism took place in Mexico between the
years 1836-1867. This chronology shows that Romanticism in Mexico was rather a successor than a
contemporary to the European movement. Illades, Nación, 21-22. This chronology extends
Romanticism by a decade compared to Galí Boadella’s. Feminine Romanticism as Romantic
sensibility, in Galí’s chronology, started and finished earlier than literary Romanticism.
Yo [Manuel Payno], ‘Memorias sobre el matrimonio’, El Museo Mexicano II (1843), 49-52. Payno
admitted his text was inspired by his reading of Balzac’s Physiologie du mariage.
Ibid., 51.
Men can read anything they please if their judgement and taste have been educated; a
woman should never be exposed ‘to pervert her heart, to deviate her soul from [the]
ideas of religion and piety […]. Neither shall a febrile exaltation of feelings that
would make her lose contentment and tranquillity of domestic life, and to look at her
husband as a slothful and insufferable Classic’.71 The reference to a ‘classic’ is an
allusion to the Classic–Romantic antagonism that frequently comes up in the
contemporary Mexican press, where women are described as Romantic and men as
Classic. The gendered division of Classic/Romantic can be traced as back as La
Querelle des Anciens et des Moderns in France at the end of the seventeenth century.
According to Danielle Haase-Duboc:
This Querelle (quarrel) was not purely literary; on the contrary, it was intimately
associated with the debates of political and social values of the moment: the criteria
of classicism are masculine and noble, those of the novel (mainly feminine)
promulgated bourgeois and effeminate values.72
The advice Payno gives his female readership is, in effect, an attempt to be in control
of the unfettered reading space:
As a general rule, each time you hear of a work that is Romantic, do not read it; and
this goes against my literary ideas and my opinion with regard to these writings; but
what is generally called Romantic shall not be read by young or married women,
because there are always in these writings treacherous husbands, tyrant fathers,
treacherous friends, horrendous incests, patricides, adulteries, murders and crimes,
mixed up in a slimy mix of blood and mud.73 (1.11, p. 308)
The object of reading is, instead, ‘to alleviate life’s weight’ and not to ‘compress the
heart’. Payno tells his female reader that she can safely read Don Quixote by Miguel
Cervantes and that she can spend ‘countless hours of delight reading Walter Scott
[…] whose works can be read by tender girls, chaste maidens and virtuous married
women’. Scott’s works portray the ideals of mind and body and they are lessons in
history of Scotland and England ‘that shall fertilize your understanding without
harming it and shall give you matter for, without presumption and garrulousness,
Danielle Haase-Dubosc, , ‘Intellectuelles, femmes d’esprit et femmes savants au XVIIe siècle,’
Clio, No. 13 (2001), Accessed 23 08 2008, <>.
Yo, ‘Memorias’, 51.
making pleasant conversation with your acquaintances and those of your husband’.74
Apparently, the didactic benefits posed by the pseudo-historical characterisations of
Walter Scott’s novels meant that they escaped Payno’s adverse characterization of
Romantic novels. The texts that Payno censured exalted Romantic imagination,
sensibility and love in extreme forms, including the inescapable suffering associated
with it (Rousseau’s Julie and the letters of Heloise and Abelard) and religious
tolerance (Volney’s Ruins).75 If, in Mexico like in Central Europe, the bourgeois
home was to serve ‘as sanctuary, a place which a man could retire for a reward
principally invested in his woman’,76 this type of reading went clearly against the
ideals of women’s education. ‘De la influencia del bello sexo’ emphatically supports
the literary instruction of women, but exclusively centred on moral readings with the
telling argument that: ‘We must strengthen women’s spirit for them to vigorously
resist the future seductions of imagination’.77 The double standard could hardly be
clearer: those men writing, translating and/or publishing these literary texts are
telling women they should not read them. Market considerations, not least the fact
that women were excellent customers, apparently allowed them to overcome their
Female identity-building in independent Mexico had to work within this
adverse climate. The exposure of women to foreign ideas that contributed to their
independent thinking was simultaneous to the repetitive direction of remaining in the
traditional roles of daughters and wives. Amid these contradictory messages, women
slowly found spaces to develop their creativity and become writers, and for
musicians to express themselves. Within limits they were praised, investing them
with a national pride on account of their creations and trajectories, which were
incorporated into the building of a national profile. As we shall see, given the urgent
agenda of national building, patriotic manifestations came before other
Ibid., 52.
The call for imagination and the special intellectual effort of intertextuality required in the reading
of Julie, or the New Heloise, together with the moral ambiguity implicit in rescuing the fallen lovers
present in the novel, made it a dangerous reading for women, while literary Mexican men embraced
Rousseau’s descriptive/prescriptive texts on women behaviour without trouble.
Leon Botstein, ‘Listening through Reading: Musical Literacy and the Concert Audience’, 19th
Century Music 16, No. 2 (1992), 136.
‘De la influencia del bello sexo’, Panorama, 39.
Making music at home: virtues and dangers
Women’s reading of Romantic literature was associated with another pervasive
domestic activity: music-making, especially piano playing and singing. In Mexico, as
in a considerable part of the Western world, ‘the piano-girl was ubiquitous’.78 As
early as 1807, we find reference to the fondness of young women of the upper
classes for the clave, generic for keyboard, and a praise of its practice. ‘What could I
say about the enchanting skill with which several distinguished young ladies and
children perform the clave; they are dedicating themselves to this fine art of the Gods
in perfect accordance with their sex, their age, their education and their enlightened
Whether in the Victorian world or in the sphere of influence of the Spanish
empire, the charm that a woman exuded when making music is reiterated in different
texts of the time, In a quasi-formulaic manner women were recommended to play the
piano, as it was implicitly considered to increase their attractiveness. For instance, in
an annual woman’s album entitled Presente amistoso dedicado a las señoritas
mexicanas—an exquisite booklet whose diminutive pages and illustrations were
designed as a present to please young women— the publisher Ignacio Cumplido
With how many attractions does a young woman adorn herself when her white hand
runs down the sonorous piano and inundates the ear with tender melodies! It seems
that then the aristocratic salon is peopled with invisible genies that come to applaud
her with their divine voices, for being the queen of loveliness!80 (1.12, p. 308-9)
In a similar vein, a passage from an early literary magazine, El Iris, finds music ‘one
of the most beautiful adornments of a young lady’s education. She polishes and
perfects that sweetness of personality, good taste and sensibility that characterizes
her, and that first forms the consolation of the parental home and then the delight of a
husband’.81 In very similar terms but heightened by Romantic rhetoric, a decade later
Ruth Solie, ‘Chapter 3. ‘“Girling” at the Parlor Piano’, Music in Other Words. Victorian
Conversations, California Studies in 19th-Century Music (Berkeley: University of California Press,
2004), 89.
Diario de México, 27 Oct. 1807, 257, quoted in Jesús Herrera, ‘El Quaderno Mayner, ’Master’s
Thesis, (Xalapa: Universidad Veracruzana, 2007), 17.
Presente amistoso dedicado a las señoritas mexicanas (1852), 376.
El Iris, 32.
El Mosaico Mexicano declares that: ‘If besides good breeding, refinement and talent,
a young woman adds the seduction of singing with the soul, and the spell of celestial
eyes, to try to resist her is a foolish or an insane enterprise’.82
The association between women and music, pianos in this case, was expanded
so as to make the instrument a prolongation of their being linked to moments of joy.
The link was so strong that the absence of a woman meant the silencing of music and
celebration. In an obituary of the young girl Paz Reyes, the Mexican Romantic writer
José María Roa Bárcena stated: ‘her piano is now mute; instead of merry singing
there are shouts of pain; instead of laughing, prayer’.83 Music, by extension, becomes
a feminine realm, as described in the introductory words to a score published in a
literary magazine: ‘We are especially delighted to publish music, since we are giving
back to the ladies what belongs to them’.84 Music published in magazines thus
implicitly identified domestic music with women in a positive light. Music-making at
home signified a feminine realm contained within sanctioned boundaries.
Not only periodicals and literature but also travellers’ testimonies portray
music-making at home as a pervasive phenomenon in Mexico. Calderón de la Barca,
being a serious amateur musician herself—she had her harp and her Erard piano
delivered to Mexico from the U.S.—, became involved in music-making in Mexico
both in her own home and in public settings. On her arrival in 1838, only days after
she disembarked in the city of Veracruz, she commented: ‘I imagine that there must
be a great deal of musical taste thrown away here. There are pianos in almost every
house…’85 A year later, her impression of Mexican musicality was to be confirmed,
although she repeated her image of a rather superficial endeavour:
There is evidently a great deal of musical taste among them [the Mexicans], and, as
in every part of Mexico, town or country, there is a piano tal cual in every house; but
most of those who play are self-taught, and naturally abandon it very soon, for want
of instruction or encouragement.86
Manuel Vilar, like Calderón de la Barca, was also apparently an amateur
musician, who was delighted to find fondness for music-making widespread in
‘Mujeres’, El Mosaico Mexicano, (1837), 139.
El Álbum Mexicano, 78.
El Iris, 16.
Calderón de la Barca, ‘Letter the Fourth’ (1839).
Calderón de la Barca., ‘Letter the Thirty-fifth’ (1841). ‘Tal cual’ (exactly like that) in Spanish in the
Mexican society. In the letters to relatives and friends back in Spain, he narrated that
the daughter of the house where he was living, aged 22, was an excellent pianist with
whom ‘I have good times singing’ during times of tedium.87 Vilar is truly convinced
of Mexicans’ disposition for music-making. His testimony is particularly valuable,
for he was invited to many homes in his reputable role as an Academy professor, and
had the opportunity to listen to and practice music, singing as a baritone. Vilar
thought highly of the Mexicans’ musicianship: he found music-making ‘in a great
number of other houses [than the one where he was a tenant] since there is almost not
a family that does not sing or play, and you would be amazed at the amount of
musical enthusiasm and good disposition there is, and as much musical ability as
anywhere in Europe’.88
This panorama needs to be nuanced both with regard to the somewhat
repressive aspect of women making music in the home and with the negative
connotations to which even a society advocating music-making subscribed when
women performed music in unrestrained contexts or with uninhibited passion. In the
face of an ‘excessive fondness’ for domestic music-making, condemnation came
from authors of very different dispositions. In Mexico, foreign writings including
liberal ones such as those of Joséphine Bachellery referred to the waste of time and
even banality found in the innumerable hours that young women devoted to the
piano. Their Mexican counterparts insisted that music carried with it a neglect of
domestic responsibilities. In addition, both Mexican and European texts argued that
due to women’s alleged lack of judgement, as with their reading, they could easily
fall prey to immoral and seductive men through music-making.
Within the ‘Scales of Love’ with which this chapter began the filarmónica
was understood as a woman whose fondness of music was so great—by playing or
singing, going to the theatre or talking about it—that her affection became what
defined her. Music resembled an open door through which the few men with musical
knowledge easily entered into women’s hearts and bodies. Richard Leppert has
described a situation in the Victorian world that is not far from that in Mexico: ‘The
scandal of female musical performance, the binding of the physical to the cognitive,
produces pleasure, toward which Victorians were pointedly antagonistic precisely
because it implicitly privileged the otherwise devalorised body and because it was
Manuel Vilar to José Vilar, México, 26 Apr. 1846, 136.
Ibid., 152.
immanently shameless—erotic’.89 The protagonist of the Mexican story Mariquita
Castañuela, for instance, compromises her decency by letting herself be effortlessly
seduced by the filarmónico. He takes advantage of the sentiments, and closeness
including physical closeness, implicit in music-making, to make his advances.
Implicitly it is the woman’s job to stop him.
More tame [than the soldier suitor] but no less feared was the Philharmonic, whether
in conversation, recitative or aria for tenor or soprano obligato, they warbled in a duo
Il Sospiro, La Cenerentola, Il Pirata and other things after he presented Mariquita
with sweets and marshmallows. He placed himself before her with his guitar and
played with her knees with impunity; taking advantage of his voice and touch during
the breaks in which they tuned up or discussed what they ought to sing at the
tertulia.90 (1.13, p. 309)
A literary example
To illustrate how the Romantic literary and musical cultures intersected, this section
examines the musical portions of the play A ninguna de las tres (None of the Three)
by playwright Fernando Calderón. It is a case that displays instances of the
containment necessary for women amateur music-making to work within the
established rules of propriety, and an example of how the notions of women and
what were considered Romantic practices were displayed, interlocked, in a Mexican
literary work. As a moral tale, they agree on the deleterious effects upon women that
an unfettered musical practice can bring about.
According to Ernano Caldera, the first generation of Romantic writers such as
Lord Byron, George Sand or Mariano José de Larra, whose tragic lives paralleled
those of their literary subjects, crafted a veritable ‘existential Romanticism’, whereas
later generations adopted a Romanticism of irony that concentrated on form: gestures
and words with little artistic depth.91 Costumbrismo, within this later trend, was a
literary current that became quite successful in Spain and Latin America, and
employed irony to make fun of those who sought to live a Romantic life in
exaggerated ways. According to Mercedes Comellas the favourite topics in the
costumbristas’ satires involved the juxtaposition of Romantic and Classic characters,
Leppert, The Sight of Sound, 215.
‘Mariquita Castañuela’, 28-9.
Ermano Caldera, Los románticos se burlan de sí mismos. Algunos apuntes sobre el Romanticismo
existencial (Alicante: Biblioteca Virtual Miguel Cervantes, 2003).
including women poets and Romantic men with stereotypically long hair, tight
breeches, and eyeglasses.92 In Mexico, Carlos Illades has found that the first
generation of the Academia de Letrán, to which Fernando Calderón belonged, sowed
the seeds for Mexican nationalism by recovering the indigenous world in an
anachronistic and idealised fashion. These authors considered Independence as a new
liberating era. Costumbrismo was popular with this group of writers.
Calderón’s play ‘None of the Three’ [ca.1837-1840] is an early example in
Mexican literature where the parlour becomes a site for the social life of the
bourgeoisie for the purpose of matchmaking.93 It takes place in the bourgeois house
of Don Timoteo, in Mexico City during the 1830s. The action never leaves the house,
its dialogues taking place in an uneventful and unhurried manner as part of domestic
intercourse. A flirtatious young man, with the telling name of Don Juan, must decide
which of the three daughters of Don Timoteo to marry, and he has for some time,
with the father’s permission, got to know them all. The play begins on the day when
his time is up and he must make his decision known.
Don Timoteo’s three daughters—Leonor, María and Clara—incarnate three
different types of woman. María (Mariquita) is a light-hearted young woman who
enjoys herself singing, dancing, going to parties and flirting with men; Clara is an
intellectual completely uninterested in matters of the heart and submerged in the
current political situation she devours newspapers and pamphlets; Leonor is a
Romantic soul lost in chivalric novels, sobbing for her heroines and out of touch with
reality. The characterizations of the women are schematic and cartoonish. Despite the
obvious incompatibilities, if we were to fuse the three of them in one, we would have
a picture of the Romantic woman, complete with those alleged excesses that
Romanticism caused: too much singing and dancing, and too much thinking and
daydreaming (these latter two characteristics being associated with the dangers of
unregulated reading). In the end, Don Juan, a paradoxical name given his nature,
Mercedes Comellas, ‘“¡Yo quiero ser caribe! ¡Yo quiero ser antiromántico!” del buen humor del
anti-romanticismo,’ Del Romanticismo al Realismo. Actas del I Coloquio de la S. L. E. S. XIX,
Barcelona, 24-26 October 1996, ed. by Luis F. Díaz Larios and Enrique Miralles (Alicante: Biblioteca
Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, 2005), 357-370. Accessed 28 09 2007,
Calderón, A ninguna de las tres, 192-286. According to José Emilio Pacheco in his chronology
included in the book Poesía Mexicana I. 1810-1914 (Mexico: Promexa Editores, 1979), the play is
from 1843. Neither Contreras Soto, writer of the prologue to the edition I used, nor Pacheco, gives a
source for the date provided. All the operas mentioned in the play were first performed in Mexico in
1836, thus most likely the play was written after that; I situate it between 1837 and 1840.
decides not to marry any of Don Timoteo’s daughters, and the title of the play
becomes clear. The culprit is Romantic behaviour.
Inevitably, the conversation revolves around the education of women. As a
loving and kind father, Don Timoteo wants his daughters to be happy in their own
ways, and these include reading, enjoying music, painting and dancing, and not being
confined to the traditional domestic roles. His friend Don Antonio, however, takes a
different view and reminds Don Timoteo of the need for their containment. The key
word is ‘excess’, for it marks the limit of women’s suitable amusements or artistic
Don Timoteo:
According to that view
You want me to suffocate
The talents of my daughters?
So they wash, sew or iron,
So they are always at the hearth,
Laying out food,
And, so in the end, they
Are employed like servants?
Don Antonio:
No sir;
But they should at least know
Those duties
Which are proper to their sex.
Music, painting,
And dance are all very well,
And serve a young lady
As attraction and recreation;
But, friend, everything is bad
When taken to excess. (1.14, 309)
Calderón also takes issue with the uncritical admiration for all things foreign—in this
case Parisian—which became so common among the Mexican upper classes. It was a
decisive moment of definition of national identity, and the author condemned the
servile emulation of European models.95 In the ‘Scales of Love’ we saw this type of
attitude represented by the ‘impious’, whereby the author associates foreign
influence with an estrangement from Mexico’s universal religion of Catholicism, but
also with ideas considered subversive, such as socialism or the equality of women. In
Calderón, A ninguna de las tres, 202.
The ambivalence, to say the least, which the learned group publishing journals and newspapers
began to hold toward foreign things, versus the generalised unconditional love for all things foreign is
manifest in theatre matters too, regarding, for instance, mediocre performances by Italian opera
companies, as we explore in Chapter Four.
Mexico, Catholicism stood side by side with the independence movement. The first
symbol the insurgents used was the Virgin of Guadalupe. One can say Catholicism
was, and is to this day, regarded as a national-cultural good, beyond its religious
Impías (Impious) (maidens from 25 to 40). This merchandise was previously
nonexistent on the market. There are various reasons for the appearance of this
article: contact with foreigners who were mere locksmiths in their own country but
become personages here, Romantic dramas and novels such as The Wandering Jew96
that these women have read without proper basis.97 (1.15, p. 309)
In ‘None of the Three’, the author ridicules these attitudes, embodied in this case not
by a woman but by a man. Don Juan’s fatuous friend, Don Carlos, has only just
returned from Paris and he is without rhyme or reason quoting French phrases such
as comme il faut or très méchant, and repeatedly declaring how everything in France
is superior to Mexico.98 Don Carlos defends his admiration for France because for
him Mexico is definitely backward in comparison. For instance, the boring ‘classical’
plays that are offered in the ugly theatre contrast badly with the magnificent soirées
in France. These examples were likely to be of special interest to women readers,
who were avid attendees of plays and who were the main organizers of tertulias.
Unexpectedly, however, María, apparently the most superficial of the three
daughters, who likes music, dancing and partying, engages in a strong defence of her
country. When Don Carlos tries to seduce her by telling her she looks like ‘a Parisian
sparkling jewel’, ‘a nymph of the Seine’, she replies: ‘I am just a Mexican woman’,
which he, apparently, refuses to believe.
Don Carlos:
Don Carlos:
Don Carlos:
Are you Venus or are you Flora?
Or rather an angel from heaven?
I'm just a Mexican [woman]
Impossible! It's not true!
You're French, Italian,
Or at least from La Havana;
But not from this City.
Well, actually…
Don't speak to me in Castilian [Spanish],
Socialist novel by Eugène Sue published as a feuilleton in 1844-5. It is over a 1000 pages and deals
mainly with the world’s injustices. It caused scandal because of its being a veritable manifesto on
women’s rights, and on the worker communes. It is notable for its anticlerical tone. El Álbum
Mexicano came out in 1849, only four years after the novel was released in France.
El Álbum Mexicano, 86.
Calderón, A ninguna, 210.
Destroying the illusion;
Of that sovereign face,
It cannot be Mexican,
My heart tells me so
María: (Annoyed)
A good way of making love,
Despising my homeland so!
Don Carlos: (Submissive)
Deign to pardon:
It's so difficult to find
A single good thing here!
Well, the door is open for you,
How annoying and how stubborn!
Fulfil your high destiny
Go back to where you came from.
Leave us alone
If you don’t feel comfortable
On the soil of your birth
Go somewhere else,
For a honeyed suitor
Is not much of a loss, no.99 (1.16, pp. 309-10)
How can we explain the virtuous signs of patriotism displayed by María in a play
where women were generally condemned due to their superficial or irresponsible
attitudes? As we mentioned earlier, among the Romantic ideas adopted at the time
patriotism was a characteristic that was highly acceptable for women to adopt.
Romanticism brought with it an appreciation for all things national, including nature,
landscape, art and history, which are hailed in articles published in those same
magazines containing Romantic literature. The wars with the U.S.A. and France were
part of everyday life for women as much as they were for civilian men, and the
exaltation of patriotic feelings through pamphlets, newspapers and literature left an
imprint on women’s consciousness and positioning even if they did not have active
political participation. Patriotism, less militant in nature than more aggressive
nationalism, was perhaps not only an accepted but commended feminine Romantic
trait in early nineteenth-century Mexico.100
Ibid., 228.
Women did participate in wars by aiding the national or foreign soldiers with food or shelter.
During the French intervention, for instance, women were on both camps: some marrying French
officers; others boycotting the foreign invasion. This fascinating subject exceeds the limits of this
Men of Mexico’s post- independence elite awakened to the fact that women were
part of the new nation and that their place in the shifting Mexican reality had to be
addressed. More attention had to be paid to their education; women needed new
knowledge in accordance with the modern world Mexicans aspired to become part
of. Now that Spain’s iron grip of the country had been loosened, Mexico formed part
of the a wider European sphere of influence including France and England, whose
ideas were translated and printed on everyday basis in the Mexican press. Ideas about
women’s education, their position in society, the activities most suitable or readings
most appropriate for them were all coming from Europe, but at the same time were
being discussed, mainly by men, in Mexican publications. Romanticism, which took
the cultivated elite by storm in the 1830s, played a perhaps unexpected role in
opening up spaces for women developing their intellectual and artistic abilities and
competences. Mexican women embraced the sentimental world of feminine
Romanticism through the practices of music-making, reading and writing literature.
There are gendered paradoxes that need to be addressed when dealing with
Romanticism as a nineteenth-century way of life. Literary Romanticism was as
imaginative as it was edifying, while at the same time it was an essentially masculine
endeavour, for most of its architects were men. In Mexico, a feminised version of
Romanticism was deemed superficial, a waste of time and capable of inducing lose
morals. This was women’s territory. If, indeed, a considerable amount of the
readership of Romantic literature was women, by reading these texts provided by
men they would unleash the imagination and would be estranged from their
traditional womanly roles. The tension was insoluble and reinforced by marketing
strategies that directed those literary, and musical, products to women. There was
one exception: when the patriotic factor was mixed in, women were granted spaces
otherwise unacceptable for them. Contributing to the consolidating of the new
country took precedence over other considerations.
The dénouement of ‘None of the Three’ summarizes the obsessive moral
lesson most mid-nineteenth-century literature was trying to convey to women: read,
and play music, but not in excess; be sensitive but do not indulge in an overriding
sensibility; be sweet not temperamental and love your country above all others. The
countervailing forces of Romantic sensibility unleashed hard-to-control devils in
Mexican women. As Chapter Three will demonstrate, women gradually began to
open spaces for action within the new country.
In the next chapter we delve further into the musical world Mexican women
developed in their homes, with the participation of men. In order to acquire music
and instruments, in order to learn how to play and dance, and to play and dance with,
women and men needed each other. The domestic music world was a crucial social
intersection for the Mexican upper classes and women were in charge of creating,
recreating as well as sometimes challenging and expanding it within the boundaries
of a developing secular society.
Chapter 2
Albums for Young Mexican Women: Music, Dance and
Hear me with eyes alone,
Since ears are out of hearing’s farthest reach,
Hear how my pen, with moans,
Echoes separation’s bitterest pangs
And, since you cannot catch my rancorous tune,
hear me unhearing, hear a pain gone mute
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Josefa Zúñiga decided she had enough pieces to complete an album, probably one
among many, and that she should bind it and preserve it from the ravages of time.
The result, her ‘Colección de piesas [sic] de música para peano[sic] / Josefa Zúñiga’,
comprises 24 piano pieces probably assembled in the late 1840s in Mexico City. It is
now in the hands of a private collector. It is quarter-bound, with the owner’s
inscription on the spine in gold tooling. The covers are decorated with green marbled
paper with purple and gold veins, and elegance still emanates from its worn-out
cover. It was probably Josefa’s father who took her scores to a Mexico City music
shop where the book was made up to the young lady’s specifications. Her selection
includes 6 waltzes, 5 polkas, 2 polka-mazurkas, a redowa, a Varsovienne and 6 opera
selections: a fantasia (I puritani, Bellini), a march (La donna del lago, Rossini), a
duo (Norma, Bellini), a rondo (Il pirata, Bellini), variations brilliantes (La Violette,
Carafa), variations concertantes (Le philtre, Auber) and an overture (La Cenerentola,
Rossini).2 Josefa also included compositions by Mexican composers whom she might
have known personally. The finished album was unique, a luxury she and her family
were willing to pay for since the Zuñigas felt it a worthwhile and praiseworthy
enterprise for a young woman to engage in.
A Sor Juana Anthology, trans. Alan S. Trueblood, foreword by Octavio Paz. (Cambridge, MA/
London: Harvard University Press, 1988), 71.
Óyeme con los ojos,
Ya que están tan distantes los oídos,
Y de ausentes enojos
En ecos de mi pluma mis gemidos;
Y ya que a ti no llega mi voz ruda,
Óyeme sordo, pues me quejo muda.
Álbum ‘Josefa Zúñiga’, private collection of Guillermo Contreras, Mexico City.
As in many parts of the Western hemisphere, Mexican women assembled
these albums for home music-making.3 There are hundreds of them, scattered in
libraries, and especially in private collections. In Mexican music libraries they are
sadly neglected: for the most part they lie abandoned; the thousands of pieces they
contain are not deemed worthy of cataloguing. The composers contained within them
are mostly now forgotten, their music considered of little or no value, and as if this
were not enough, their format—too bulky to place on a piano desk—hardly makes
them an asset for a lending library.4 In private collections, their fate is hardly better.
They either become part of a decorative setting on a lavish bookshelf or, as in the
case of Josefa Zúñigas’s album, lie in boxes for want of a better place.
Through the sheet music contained in thirteen Mexican music albums
compiled between the 1830s to the 1860s,5 this chapter explores practices and
imagines music and dance scenarios in the home. These albums represent a narrow
entrance for a researcher to step into an elusive, little-known, and generally ignored,
musical world—that of the nineteenth-century Mexican upper-class home. Ten of the
albums were compilations made by amateurs. Eight of them are today in private
hands; two are in the library of the National Conservatory and two more are from a
music journal, José Antonio Gómez’s El Instructor Filarmónico, (1843). These
latter are now housed in the library of the School of Music of the National
University. Number thirteen is not properly an album but rather a compilation of
pieces that appeared in women’s magazines between 1826 and 1853. They contain a
multiplicity of genres and composers, although certain names and genres are clearly
more popular than others. The majority of composers are foreign, although there is a
significant number of native-born Mexicans. An overwhelming majority of the
pieces are for piano solo, followed by voice and piano duos and then other
combinations, including the accompaniment of guitar, violin or flute.
Bindings could be made to order, or albums could be bought off the shelf. In addition, some music
periodicals, such as El Instructor Filarmónico, or Museo Filarmónico, offered to bind the collection
of sheet music for which their subscribers had paid, turning weekly deliveries into a full Tomo
Jeanice Brooks has also pointed out their eclecticism and the lack of a table of contents as additional
factors for their impracticability. Jeanice Brooks, ‘Les collections féminines d’albums de partitions
dans l’Angleterre du début du XIXe siècle,’ La la la... Maistre Henri, Mélanges de musicologie offerts
à Henri Vanhulst, eds., C. Ballman, V. Dufour (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010), 381. I thank the author for
generously sending me a copy of her article.
Dating of the albums was mostly inferred from the Hofmeister XIX database, to identify European
publication dates for the individual pieces and then to correlate them with announcements in the
Mexican press.
The albums can be taken as a representative sample of music within Mexican
nineteenth-century upper-class homes. What is more, they reflect the musical tastes
of properly brought up young women and say something of their abilities to meet
national and international musical challenges. Their repertoire came mostly from a
variety of imported and locally printed music available for retail sale. Other material
came via subscription to music publications such as the two albums of the Instructor
Filarmónico included here, or from music supplements to women’s magazines. The
musical assortment was aimed at embracing beginner, intermediate and advanced
pianists, as well as offering other piano and voice pieces. We also investigate annuals
which, although not specialised in music, were a parallel kind of publication that
women cherished and looked forward to each year. These formed part of the
intellectual universe of these amateur performers. This section is followed by a
general description of the repertoire contained in the 13 albums and looks at Josefa
Zúñiga’s album in depth. We examine one of nineteenth-century Mexicans’ favourite
pastimes—dancing—including the protocol and pleasures of dance lessons,
especially according to local dance-master Domingo Ibarra’s manual. In relation to
the repertoire contained in the albums, we explore the technical demands and levels
of proficiency that women needed to tackle the repertoire, and we explain how moral
standards of propriety for women were squared with the repertoire at hand.
Parallel to the private stories, the musical scores contained in these albums
are part of a complex public narrative of the incipient construction of a Mexican
national culture. In a newly defined and quickly evolving Mexican profile, which
included a vast literal and metaphorical Mexican landscape, women played a more
important role than has previously been acknowledged, with their love and
adaptation of European musical fashions and ideas through music and the engravings
depicted on sheet music. In an era before the ubiquity of audiovisual or electronic
media, print materials were a force of their own, and influenced the ideas and lives of
Mexico’s inhabitants. The cover-art for scores can be equated, mutatis mutandis,
with those formerly highly collectible and eagerly-anticipated LP covers of the 1970s
where a concept comprised music illustration associated with a certain sound in a
combination that became recognisable for various generations of consumers.
Music-sellers were undoubtedly keen to increase their sales by making an
eye-catching product for their customers, and images of women were crucial in
appealing to female customers or their fathers, brothers, admirers and husbands. We
advance the hypothesis that the illustrations that accompanied the music, most of
them made ad hoc by Mexican lithographers, captured the imagination of Mexican
contemporary inhabitants in a variety of ways, including idealised portraits of them,
Romantic reconstruction of themselves and their country’s landscape, and the
portrayal of ideas about what their nation was or was called to be. Given that it was a
time of defining ‘Mexicanness’, spaces for imagining a national being were opened
in many fronts.
In musical terms, a clear-cut national language distinctive to Mexico is still
far away except perhaps in the conception of a sense of national pride manifest in
short salon pieces quoting local tunes. The most recognisable forms comprise dance
music for the salon, opera in domestic format and other more or less elaborate piano
pieces for the virtuoso performance of an individual pianist. We can, however,
subscribe to the notion of ‘musical nationalism’ as stated by Thomas Turino: ‘music
used to create, sustain, or change an identity unit that conceives of itself as a nation
in relation to having its own state’ and one which ‘emphasizes use and effects, rather
than necessarily being connected to style or motivations among the original music
makers’.6 Musically speaking we see the ‘inclusion of vernacular references within
elite art music compositions… [C]osmopolitan art music genres are seasoned with
local elements (e.g., pentatonicism), or indigenous instruments, or popular melodies
and rhythms’.7 This was not unusual: indeed, the adoption of ‘native’ dances by the
upper classes in salon formats was a pervasive phenomenon in both central and
peripheral Europe and Latin America alike.8 Visiting artists of the 1840s and 1850s
were keen to compose ‘Mexican’ pieces for self-interested reasons; the Mexican
public generally received their works in a positive light and they were regarded as
Thomas Turino, ‘Nationalism and Latin American Music: Selected Case Studies and Theoretical
Considerations,’ Latin American Music Review 24, 2 (2003), 175.
Ibid., 176.
The studies of Halina Goldberg, in Poland, and Haiganus Preda-Schimeck in the South-Eastern
European area, particularly the Moldo-Wallachian region support this idea. An exploration by Tom
Moore of Brazil’s music libraries in Rio de Janeiro also corroborates the fact that Brazilian composers
were interested in including the local sounds into the salon repertoire. Halina Goldberg, ‘Chopin in
Warsaw’s Salons,’ Polish Music Journal 2, Nos. 1-2, (1999). Accessed 27 06 2006,
<> Music in Chopin’s Warsaw (Oxford/New York:
Oxford University Press, 2008). Haiganus Preda-Schimeck, ‘Music in the salons of central and southeastern Europe: Preliminary considerations for cross-regional research’ in Rūta Stanevičiūte, Lina
Navickaitė (ed.), Poetics and Politics of Place in Music, Proceedings from the 40. Baltic
Musicological Conference (Vilnius, 17-20 Oct. 2007), Lithuanian Composers’ Union (Helsinki:
Unweb Publications, 2009). Tom Moore, ‘A visit to Pianopolis. Brazilian Music for Piano at the
Biblioteca Alberto Nepomuceno,’ Notes, Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 57, 1
(2000), 59-87.
objects of national pride. These compositions played a role in making Mexicans
aware of picking up musical cues in their immediate surroundings.
‘Uses and effects’ is a key concept for the music under discussion in this
chapter, for most of the salon music we are dealing with was composed with a
specific, amateur, performer in mind. Music was an attractive means to cultivate
women in the traditional arts, as well as an ideal way to pass the time, socialise and
enable dance.
Home-made Piano Albums
Home-made music albums represented a cherished object of personal property that
reflected each owner’s unique taste and style. Such albums remained close to
women’s hearts, and fingers, and attest to their personal, inalienable, relationship
with music. Once married, in general women had to sacrifice their leading role in
soirées and at the centre of sociability to less exciting roles. A newly married hostess
was now to conduct the musical entertainment by inviting guests to play, sing and
dance. Although she could of course also participate—so long as she took a
secondary position in these activities as the etiquette manuals advised—to some it
must have been a difficult transition. Her albums, however, were independent of her
social status, and they could come to life and provide a private pleasure, acting as a
companion to hours of loneliness and an outlet for her emotions. Albums could
additionally provide a way to cling to a bygone youth and to the relative musical and
emotional freedoms it brought with it.
There is also an economic dimension to albums, for they are tangible
examples of material affluence. Jeanice Brooks has summarised the main elements,
associated with the proliferation of albums that led to the flourishing of music in
England at the end of the eighteenth century: technical innovation in printing,
increased manufacturing of pianos, improvement in transportation systems and a
wealthy urban population which stimulated the expansion of the music market.9
Mexico benefited from this economic boom via the receipt of more musical
merchandise at lower cost. At the same time, the Mexican criollos, the upper-classes
of Spanish descent, owing their richness to commerce, mining and agriculture,
Brooks, ‘Les collections féminines d’albums,’ 372.
increased their cash-flow after independence, since the high taxes they were paying
to the Spanish crown in order to preserve their benefits during Colonial times were
abolished. The new order maintained a considerable portion of their economic
privileges with the added benefit of increased freedom of movement.10 The criollos
were willing to invest money in a bourgeois pursuit that not only delighted them but
also educated their women. Leisure, and the means to afford lessons and provide
salon settings in which women performed, was a form of cultural capital, while the
importation of European salon music and its performance contexts ‘were a means of
maintaining the cultural prestige of the criollo elites and means of marking
distinction from others within the state’, in the Mexican case, the Indians and
mestizos: combinations of White and Indian.11 Women, supported by men, assembled
these albums when they were single but brought as part of their dowry to their
married home, and they could eventually become an inheritance for their daughters,
thus reinforcing the ‘patrilineal superstructure’.12 Accordingly, while criollo men
were busy constructing a national identity and infrastructure in the public, political
realm, their women were processing the influence of European music and literature
in order to create their version of a national, gentrified self ‘at home’.
During Colonial times the elites amassed immense fortunes, albeit always dependent on royal
benevolence in the form of permits and special benefits that came at high cost for the upper classes.
These fortunes, however, went through ups and downs according to the financial vicissitudes such as
success or failure in mining exploration, a change of government or the ever-changing rules of the
game regarding retail merchandise that arrived from Spain. Composed of a handful of inter-related
families, the elites flourished under the Colonial regime and especially through the Church’s generous
credit system. Once the Spanish empire underwent its decisive crisis due to the French invasion, and
demanded the amounts due on debts in cash, the rich elite joined the generalized social unrest. To pay
the Crown their debts via the Church would have been tantamount to the elite’s economic ruin, and
thus they resisted it. See Doris M. Ladd, La nobleza mexicana en la época de la Independencia, 17801826, trans. by Marita Martínez del Río de Redo (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1984).
Turino, ‘Nationalism and Latin-American Music,’ 179. This ‘exclusionary attitude,’ to employ
Turino’s term, has made salon music and by extension all concert music, a domain removed from the
lower classes in Mexico and probably throughout Latin America to this day, despite governmental
attempts, since 1920, to close the gap. In Mexico, since the 1920s, the government has tried to close
this gap through free concerts with ample dissemination—and with mixed results. The lack of a good
music education in schools still makes music the interest of an elite, now more cultural than
economic, which invests time and money for its children to learn music. The fact that the best music
schools, which are state-supported, grant access to all classes of society has played down the
economic factor but has not managed to overcome the cultural gap.
Jeanice Brooks indicates that a woman could inherit books from her own family, her husband’s
family or even the first wife of her husband or non-married women. Brooks, ‘Les collections
féminines,’ 381-382. Unfortunately the situation in Mexico, as far as I have been able to establish, is
that these collections have been sold to booksellers and private collectors. It has not been possible to
trace the genealogy of the albums consulted. Even in the National Conservatoire there is little clarity
as to their origin.
The proliferation of albums beginning in the 1840s can be situated within a
general renewal of the Mexican musical community.13 With the reactivation of the
economy and of the musical market it was not only the upper classes who now had
access to musical publications and lessons: more private lessons were offered,
schools were opened, opera and visiting virtuosi toured the country and an industry
of printing and importing sheet music began to develop. A parallel can be drawn with
Poland in the 1820s when, after the Congress of Vienna, Poland achieved relative
autonomy through the Congress Kingdom. As Goldberg writes:
[T]he growth of music publishing was beneficial as a function of the new socioeconomic environment that resulted in increased musical literacy, as well as greater
participation in music making and musical patronage among larger segments of
Polish society.14
Women who assembled their music albums had a relative freedom in
selecting their music and arranging it to their taste. Their sphere of choice was, of
course, mediated by the music available on sale. Albums were an example of do-ityourself whose parts were pre-set but whose final detail, such as the order of pieces,
the type and colour of binding, the words and of the gilded tooling were left to the
assembler. New repertoire constantly arrived from Europe or was published in
Mexico according to changing fashion, to publishers’ projects or to composers’
success in disseminating their music. Musical tastes and the music available
accordingly were passing affairs in the home market, but their products, the albums,
were long-lived. As we see from James Davies’s study on musical annuals, these
compilations ‘offered something to hang on to, a sense of what had been current, “of
the moment”’.15
The musical life of the nineteenth-century Mexican home was eminently
social. It was a way of communicating, expressing oneself, watching and being seen
Musicologist Jesús Herrera has written insightful studies on two Mexican women’s albums of
earlier decades. One, the Quaderno Mayner, c. 1808-1814, and Manuscrito de Mariana Vasques,
between 1820 and 1840, which attest to the incipient practice that would become common in later
decades. These manuscripts are mainly hand-written. Jesús Herrera, ‘El Quaderno Mayner,’ Master’s
Thesis (Xalapa: Universidad Veracruzana, 2007) and ‘El Manuscrito de Mariana Vasques: música
para tocar, bailar y cantar de principios del México independiente,’ Heterofonía 132-133, (2005), 924.
Goldberg, Music in Chopin’s Warsaw, 55. This affluence was part of the Victorian world, which
also invested the music-making of the upper women in their gentrification. Authors such as
Nicholas Temperley, Richard Leppert or Ruth Solie have made this point.
James Davies, ‘Julia’s Gift: The Social Life of Scores, c.1830,’ Journal of the Royal Musical
Association 131, 2 (2006), 291.
enacting music, experiencing and providing pleasure. Generating the music to dance
to, to identify with, helped validate one’s own knowledge or expertise in piano
playing or singing, and could also serve to recognise the abilities of a fellow
musician. Women were instrumental in these processes. They were not only the most
frequent players and singers during social reunions, but they were also the explicit or
implicit dedicatees of many salon pieces: music was created expressly with them in
mind, and they knew it. They could rightfully take that music and make it their
own.16 These albums, whose owners such as Josefa Zúñiga or Matilde Zamora are all
but forgotten, keep secret stories of the relationships they sustained with their loving
owners. These stories are silenced forever, as most private life stories are. It is the
multilayered analysis of their contents, including the social, the musical, the pictorial
and the material aspects, that can provide the substance for an imagined
reconstruction. Furthermore, the abundant material proof of this music carefully kept
in albums attests to the love professed for these works—in ways that beg our
The 13 albums chosen contain nearly 400 works. Most of the composers were
standard in European albums. Among them are Henri Herz (15 items), Ferdinand
Beyer (14), Joseph Ascher (9), François Hünten (8), Louis-Moreau Gottschalk (5),
Brinley Richards (5), Henri Rosellen (4), Carl Faust (4), Frédéric Burgmüller (4),
Albert Jungman (4), Gustav Lange (4), Jules Schulhoff (4) and Émile Prudent (4).17
Unless we include the women’s magazines, only four women composers are
explicitly listed in the albums: Señorita Doña L. Lares, Ángela Guillen, Camila
Schubert and Marie Darjou, with one piece each (See Table I, p. 279). Mexican
composers represent roughly a third of all the composers (110 out of 312 identified).
Perhaps at least some of the unidentified pieces published in the compilations could
have been by women who had hidden their identity due to prejudice, among
Dedication of works to the ladies or the fair sex amounted to almost nothing, as Matthew Head has
rightly pointed out. Dedications worked as marketing devices because finally: ‘Much music not
explicitly dedicated to women was nonetheless understood to be suited to their particular practice.’
Matthew Head, ‘“If the Pretty Little Hand Won’t Stretch”: Music for the Fair Sex in EighteenthCentury Germany,’ Journal of the American Musicological Society 52 (1999), 208.
The names are transcribed from the scores.
publishers and women alike. But in any event the unidentified pieces represent less
than 5% of the total: women, in Mexico, the U.S.A. or Europe did not feature
prominently as composers in publications of the mid-nineteenth century. The
proportion changes radically, however, when one looks at women’s magazines,
where out of 17 pieces, 7 are incontrovertibly and explicitly by women. This is an
extremely high number of women’s compositions compared to the USA, for
instance. However, statistics are not robust because the sample size is small.18
By far the most popular musical genre in the albums is the waltz: 64 of them
attest to its popularity, which continued for the rest of the century. Opera
transcriptions and arrangements of almost every possible kind form the second most
popular type of music. Put together these latter arrangements actually outnumber the
amount of waltzes, achieving a total of 109 (including five waltzes based on opera
themes). The operatic genres include, among others: fantasies, overtures, duets,
cavatinas, marches, mélodies, paraphrases de concert, polkas, polka-mazurkas,
potpourris, transcriptions brilliants, quartetos, polonaises and variations on a theme.
Operatic fantasies alone, the most popular opera-based genre in home formats,
number 23. In third place on the generic list are 32 polkas, not associated with
opera.19 Mexican albums coincide with what Brooks has found in the English
albums: their repertoire is eclectic and they privilege novelty (See Table II, p. 283).20
Most of the music contained in these albums can be grouped into three broad
categories: firstly, music to dance to (approximately 189 pieces, almost one half of
the total); secondly, music to listen to and interact and participate with, such as opera
selections people probably knew already; and thirdly, music to listen to in a more
concentrated way and/or for the pianist to showcase her/his talents (mostly, but not
exclusively, showy or virtuosic). This last category includes pieces such as etudes,
Concert-Stücke, pensées poetiques, or Lieder ohne Worte, some longer than usual, or
In her article ‘Ladies’ Companion, Ladies’ Canon? Women composers in American Magazines
from Godey’s to the Ladies’ Home Journal’, Cecilia Reclaimed: Feminist Perspectives on Gender
and Music, ed. by Susan C. Cook and Judy S. Tsou (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1994). Bonny H.
Miller selected fifteen women magazines published in the USA, in order to compare the music
published in them, from the years 1830 to 1930. In this massive study (of over 3500 music pieces)
Miller found that approximately ten percent of the compositions were by women. My study found a
staggering 40% of pieces by women, but only between 1826 and 1853, of 17 pieces that were all I
could find. Music in magazines proliferated in Mexico in the second half of the century, but this body
of music only tangentially forms part of this work.
The operatic repertoire and the circulation between home and theatre is further explored in Chapter
Brooks, ‘Les collections féminines,’ 380.
withholding from the audience immediate satisfaction in terms of recognising tunes.
During the period under consideration and within the albums discussed in this study,
these pieces were in the minority.21 There is virtually no ‘serious music’ in the form
of sonata-form chamber music or music by composers that are today in the Western
In Warsaw, according to Goldberg, in the first decades of the nineteenth
century there was ‘great demand for small compositions for the piano or for voice
accompanied by piano, mostly dances, songs and opera arrangements. To a lesser
degree, the public was interested in music for flute, guitar, harp, violin and organ’.23
Polonaises, mazurkas and waltzes were the most popular danced genres. Polonaises
amounted to 96% of published piano dance repertory.24 This was an indication of a
mature national sentiment pervading the Polish upper-classes and that was reflected
in music, a phenomenon that Mexico would see only in the late nineteenth century.
Candace Bailey, who studied the ‘piano girl’ in the Antebellum American South,
found that the most common genres for home consumption in that area of the United
States was in the first place polkas and schottisches, and in the second, ‘adaptations
of popular songs and opera arias. […] made fashionable by touring pianists. In
particular, Henri (Heinrich) Herz’s works appear regularly in collections owned by
young women and in other references’.25 This was also the case in Mexico and in the
U.S. South, where there was a general absence of ‘serious’ piano music as well.
Bailey considers that: ‘It is essentially a popular music culture, not an overly
sophisticated one’.26 Bonny H. Miller’s assertion concurs with Bailey’s findings:
‘The selections published in magazines in the United States during the nineteenth
century reflect the evolution of taste in popular music with striking clarity’.27
Miller found the same was the case in the U. S. A.: almost no famous composers or concert pieces
published in women magazines and an abundance of dance music. Bonny H. Miller, ‘A Mirror of
Ages Past: The Publication of Music in Domestic Periodicals,’ Notes. Quarterly Journal of the Music
Library Association 50, 3 (1994), 883-901.
Mazurkas numbers 1 to 4 by Chopin are contained in album OM60 from the National Conservatory.
But as Halina Goldberg has stated that ‘German scholars included Chopin in the great tradition only
reluctantly because of the French and Italian contexts for his music as well as his Polish origin,’
including the fact that his output was predominantly salon music. ‘Chopin in Warsaw’s salons,’ 1.
Goldberg, Music in Chopin’s Warsaw, 61-62.
Ibid., 57.
Candace Bailey, ‘The Antebellum “Piano Girl” in the American South,’ Performance Practice
Review 13 (2008), Claremont Graduate University, 12.
Ibid., 14.
Miller, ‘A Mirror of Ages Past,’ 890-1.
In Mexico, the ‘popular’ was considered the music people of the lower
classes, danced and played to the accompaniment of guitar or other string
instruments in popular settings. A strong sense of social class permeated salon music,
which was definitely a space for the upper classes. Only in properly ‘dressed-up’
form did ‘popular’, Mexican or Spanish songs enter the homes of well-heeled
Mexicans through piano, guitar and piano, and voice arrangements. In that regard,
the ‘popular’ progressively obtained credentials to become salon repertoire, and in
the process stopped being popular. Such gentrification of popular materials formed
the substance of the nationalistic music movement that in Mexico took place in
earnest at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The Album of Josefa Zúñiga
Returning to Josefa Zúñiga’s album one could suggest that the order of pieces
possibly mirrors the progress of a typical soirée and that Josefa had her pieces bound
from a performer’s point of view and with a performing intention (see Table III, p.
286). The album can be divided in three sections: one for dancing, which was clearly
the main aim of this album; a second composed of operatic themes adapted for solo
piano and then a third, which returns to dancing. Fifteen dance pieces open the
album, in the following order: a waltz, a redowa, four polkas (one of them a polka
mazurka), a Varsovienne, four more polkas and two waltzes. After the second section
of the album, two more waltzes close it. The first piece La flor del bosque (The
flower of the woods) is an animated waltz by Mexican composer José María Aguilar,
which opens akin to a fanfare or call to attention, possibly signalling the beginning of
the dancing. Half the pieces in this album are by Mexican composers, composers
living in Mexico, or are anonymous pieces published in Mexico (presumably by
Mexican composers). This makes it the album with highest number of Mexican
pieces among all the examples studied here.28
Excluding those published by José Antonio Gómez, which were clearly a shop window for his and
his son’s and friends’ compositions.
Example 2. José María Aguilar, La flor del bosque. Waltz. (Mexico, Murguía)
After the initial waltz, the album’s varied dance programme, which included
alternating genres and rhythms, would keep the dancers and the performer
entertained for a considerable time, after which the dancers would be ready to take
their seats and share in the next musical segment of the evening. All but one of
pieces 14 to 21 are operatic fragments (the exception is La Polonaise. Motif favori de
L. Sphor [sic], arranged by Louis Messemaeckers, for four hands). While the dance
pieces are short, averaging between 2 and 6 pages, the operatic variations can be as
long as 16 pages. Notwithstanding the repetitions that would have made them longer,
dance pieces were short, active, varied entertainment, while pieces for listening
demanded more sustained attention from those present, also affording the pleasure of
recognising themes and passages from current operatic favourites, while the pianist
had a captive audience to appreciate her musical and technical skills. Opera-based
pieces in Josefa’s album include a fantaisie, a march, a duo, a rondo, an overture and
variations on a cavatina and a march. The variety of genres was mirrored by a variety
of operas, alternating ones which would have been very familiar to that Mexican
audience, such as La Cenerentola (Mexican premiere 1827) by Rossini, I puritani
(Mexican premiere 1843), Norma (Mexican premiere 1836) or Il pirata (Mexican
premiere 1836) by Bellini, with others still to reach Mexican theatres, such as
Rossini’s La donna del lago or Carafa’s La violette.
The album contains four pieces for piano four-hands (one in the first section
and three in the second)—another way of involving the soirée’s attendees. One is a
waltz by Franz Hünten entitled ‘La Cerrito’ and based on Donizetti. Fanny Cerrito
was an Italian dancer whose fame extended to Vienna and other parts of Europe.29
This carefully printed edition was produced by the important Mexican publisher
Murguía, and attests to the speed with which news arrived there from Europe. J.
She was prima ballerina at La Scala, Milan, between 1838-1840. From 1840 to 1848, she was an
acclaimed dancer at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, where Jules Perrot created several works for
her. She was an innovator in dance technique and became famous world-wide.
Valadés, an obscure Mexican composer, made the four-hand piano arrangement. The
depictions of the ethereal Cerrito performing dance steps have survived in numerous
prints to this day. The Mexican lithography that decorates the score’s cover provides
a beautiful local reinterpretation of this ballerina’s feats.30 In the album ‘Museo
Filarmónico’ we find another piece celebrating ballet. The French ballet company
Monplaisir, which arrived at the end of 1849 and stayed in Mexico for several years,
was referenced with a ‘Polka de Monplaisir’ printed in Mexico by Murguía,
including a detailed portrayal of the main couple of the company, Adèle and
Hippolyte Monplaisir.31 They founded a dance school in Mexico that trained famous
local dancers such as María de Jesús Moctezuma, who danced in their teachers’
company and also achieved success as a soloist. Among other things, the Monplaisir
company put on a very successful show together with Dutch violinist Franz Coenen.
Overall, Josefa Zúñiga’s album is significant because it demonstrates the
ways in which amateur music stimulated general musical activity, and that of the
market. Domestic music-making became a showcase, and a source of income, for
Mexican composers through editions of their music made especially for home
consumption. Seventeen out of the twenty-four pieces in this album were printed in
Mexico. It also, and especially, produced dividends for music editors and publishers,
which printed not only Mexican but European music. The album also indicates how
music published in collections that were sold by subscription made its way into this
more permanent form: ten of the pieces included are of this provenance. Lastly, the
organization of the pieces described above, together with worn-out leather covers,
are signs of the effective and frequent use of these albums in their own times.
I suspect this Mexican edition was pirated from an American edition: La Cerrito: grande valse: sur
des motifs fashionables de Donizetti (Baltimore, F.D.Benteen. <1839?>), for which I have as yet been
able to find only an internet reference:
<>. The
Mexican cover announces the sale of a two-hand version as well.
This piece is included in the Museo Filarmónico album.
Figure 2. F. Hünten, La Cerrito.
Gran vals por Donizetti,
four-hand piano arr. by J. Valadés
(México, Murguía,)
Figure 3. F. Sauvinet, Polka
de Montplaisir
(México, Murguía)
Annuals were a popular collectable object for young women in the first half of the
nineteenth century. They are comparable to musical albums in the sense that they
gather together cherished literary and musical pieces and by the fact that they were
passed between women of different generations. They are different in the fact that
someone put them together on behalf of someone else. James Davies has investigated
the social, musical and commercial importance of musical annuals during the 1820s
and 1830s, a popular nineteenth-century format in England, given to young ladies by
their parents to play and to leaf through. Such annuals contained a selection of
favourite pieces for piano put together by editors. Beside the music, they included
poems, short stories, famous phrases and other amusing inserts. According to Davies,
by making the choice for the ladies and putting everything together in a bound
volume, ‘individuals no longer made memories for themselves; memories were
formed on their behalf. [What these albums] heralded, in the critical view, was a
moment when the commodity infiltrated to the deepest level of personal
Davies, ‘Julia’s Gift,’ 292.
Davies underscores the commodification of the personal experience they
represent. ‘The seller asked: “Why expend effort memorializing one’s life experience,
when that can be done for you?” To invest in these compilations was to buy into a
collective vision of the moment, to feel as though you had gathered every thought
together to hold close and cherish’.33 Collecting things was now regarded as a
feminine trait that young women should practice assiduously. ‘Why beautify
themselves with so many ribbons, gems, ornaments, trinkets, music books? By
placing themselves in the vicinity of these objects, by gift-wrapping themselves, by
hoarding presents, they prepared socially for being handed over themselves’.34
Davies’ annuals were ‘gifts that prepared the beneficiary, on the cusp of adolescence,
for familial separation and wedlock. Scores were given, in this sense, to put in place,
to guide moral formation by recommending tender hands to the gentle mores of the
Although not with such frequency as in England, Mexico created its own
versions of ladies’ annuals, the most notable in the 1840s and 1850s being those of
the publisher Ignacio Cumplido. He was the editor of Mexico’s leading and enduring
nineteenth-century newspaper El Siglo XIX, and also a frequent publisher of scores
including some by Henri Herz during his Mexican tour. Cumplido was in addition a
regular publisher of women magazines including El Álbum Mexicano and a young
ladies’ annual in small format entitled Presente amistoso dedicado a las señoritas
mexicanas, first published in 1847 and appearing again in 1851 and 1852.36 Davies’
definition of albums as ‘miscellanies, compilations gathered together into fetching,
saleable formats’,37 applies perfectly to Cumplido’s annuals. Women were to be
instructed in an entertaining fashion; the reminder of a European genealogy was an
additional marketing strategy: ‘These publications, so frequent in Europe, are
intended to offer recreation for the mind, to disseminate instructional matters in an
agreeable fashion and to present the public with recent trends in literature and the
typographical arts’.38
Ibid., 297.
The war with the United States cast a shadow over the cultural life of Mexico during the years
1847-1848. Cumplido was not able to take up the project again until 1851.
Davies, ‘Julia’s Gift,’ 291.
Presente amistoso dedicado a las señoritas mexicanas por I.[gnacio] Cumplido (Mexico,1851), II.
The 1851 edition contained more than 90 short articles, including poetry,
short stories, simplified scientific explanations, moral advice and many other genres.
The cover is truly remarkable on account of the use of the technique of
chromolithography. Its artwork included floral trimmings with the most common
women’s names of the time on ribbons above the flowers. At the bottom of the
image, two cherubs frame the name of Cumplido’s lithographic business. This cover
embodies the iconicity of the feminine: flowers, beauty, community and lavishness
associated with the upper-class women to whom the publication is addressed.
Figure 4. Presente amistoso dedicado a las señoritas mexicanas (1851)
Together with pleasurable and instructive literary works, the inclusion of
advice articles was customary. A prescriptive tone disguised as advice is the main
characteristic of ‘Consejos a las Señoritas’ (Advice for the young ladies), where
Cumplido summarises the current ideas on the perfect young lady’s behaviour.
Music was part of the sentimental world of a woman and it was her domain over a
man’s heart. She shall form her moral character with
religion and virtue and shall adorn her understanding with some knowledge, which
in spite of not being deep, shall be useful. She shall turn her back on two equally
disagreeable extremes: one of a coarse ignorance and the other of a conceited
ostentation of her knowledge. […] When she puts on airs or acts arrogantly, it does
not suit her at all.39 (2.1, p. 310)
According to Cumplido music was ‘one of the most precious adornments of the
beautiful sex…How expressive are the piano's accents when it is a woman who
makes it evoke its harmonies! It is then that the music exerts its reign over the hearts
of those who listen to it’.40 Since it is the feelings that are in play, the need to
regulate women’s music performance with codes of proper conduct becomes
imperative. This sort of manual of good manners for the woman pianist implicitly
recognises the attraction generated by a female musician on stage, even the domestic
stage. The recipe is to avoid all pretentiousness and act with ‘supreme simplicity, and
play with clarity, neatness and expression’. Music is valuable for the impressions it
makes upon our soul and not for its ‘boisterous sounds or the complication of its
execution’.41 Displays of virtuosity, or even intensity of sound, were ruled out as
going against feminine nature.
The 1847 annual contains one score, the romanza, ‘La mirada de tu amor’
(The Gaze of Your Love).42 Señora Doña Ignacia Elizaliturri de Caballero composed
the piece for voice and piano. Elizaliturri was a singer who is mainly known through
her famous husbands. First in 1826, at age 18, she married Joaquín Beristáin,
principal cello both in the Colegiata de Guadalupe (an orchestra associated with the
Cathedral) and in the Teatro Principal, where he became opera director. In 1838, he
and Agustín Caballero joined forces to establish their famous music school. In 1839
Elizaliturri was a student at her husband’s school, where she sang the title role in
Bellini’s opera La sonnambula.43 That same year Beristáin died and she was left with
a young child, who was to become, in his turn, the celebrated composer Lauro
Beristáin. Caballero took Elizaliturri and her child under his protection, marrying her
in 1841, after which we hear no more of her biography until her death in 1851.44
Ibid., 18.
Ibid., 19.
The 1851 and 1852 editions contain no music.
Gerónimo Baqueiro Fóster, Historia de la música, III. La música en el periodo independiente
(Mexico: Secretaría de Educación Pública/Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes/Departamento de
Música/Sección de Investigaciones Científicas, 1964), 416. La sonnambula was sung for the first time
in Mexico in 1836.
I found the newspaper announcement (El Siglo XIX, 28 July 1851) of a commemoration and prayer
for Ignacia Ilizaliturri de Caballero’s soul at the Church of La Profesa. Members of Caballero’s
Academy, together with ‘the most notable musicians of the capital’, took part in this ceremony,
Nevertheless, the publication of this score ‘for soprano or tenor voice’ in
1847 indicates that Elizaliturri de Caballero continued to be musically active despite
her duties as mother and wife. In ‘The Gaze of Your Love’ the author’s familiarity
with operatic vocal rhetoric is obvious in her inclusion of coloratura sustained by a
majestic piano accompaniment (Example 2) in an otherwise fairly standard
composition. Noticeable too is the emphasis on romantic love in this song, where the
phrase that gives the song its title takes up three out of five sung pages. A respectable
woman, married to the director of the most prestigious music school of the time,
speaks ardently through music, relishing the passion contained in an eroticised love
gaze. The effect is highlighted by performance directions such as abandonandosi
molto and fil di voce, as in the languid high B flat, the highest note in the piece
(Example 3).
Elizaliturri’s piece is a solo aria of 38 bars, through-composed but centring on
its virtuoso middle section and, with a subordinated piano accompaniment, replete
with expressive markings—not only the verbal indications, but also musical ones,
including dynamic markings, accents, slurs and staccatos. The poem, written by ‘M.’,
is also published in the annual. It is a Romantic medieval revival poem that tells the
story of a troubadour singing outside his lady’s castle with a harp, narrating his
heroic journey to Palestine after which he has returned to aspire to the lady’s love.
The composer only takes a fraction of the poem for her song, illuminating the
repetitive lyrics with expressive musical nuances.
Example 2. La mirada de tu amor, bars 22-23
traditionally held shortly after a death. While Gabriel Pareyón provides the wrong date of 1856, in his
Diccionario Enciclopédico de Música en México, vol. 2, 592 (Zapopan, Jal., Mexico: Universidad
Panamericana, 2007), Gerónimo Baqueiro Fóster rightly considers that her death occurred between
1851 and 1852. Baqueiro Fóster, Historia, 428.
Example 3. La mirada de tu amor, bar 28
If we believe the editors’ words, Elizaturri is said to have shown a certain
reticence—‘modesty and shyness’–which she had to overcome in order to publish the
work. The editors also characterize the composition as a ‘beautiful and melancholic
musical piece…which is perhaps the finest adornment of our book’. Such
expressions frame the romanza in the acceptable manner, for the expected timidity of
a proper lady is in sharp contrast with the self-assuredness the composer displays in
her piece. Elizaliturri, who was a public figure by the fact of being the wife of the
headmaster of the most important music school in Mexico City, had to present an
example for the school’s female music students.
The editors proudly highlight Elizaliturri’s national origins, naming her ‘a
very worthy Mexican woman’. A double discourse is again at work in this
publication, where advice articles emphasize moderation as a praiseworthy attitude in
women while a well-finished example of a woman’s creative mastery is nevertheless
published and recognised. The national pride factor is key in this phenomenon, for it
was personified in women creators who found a space to express themselves ‘in
parallel to’ the conventional rules of conduct.
Mexican Women, Technical Demands and Proficiency
A closer look at the contents of these albums offers clues to the general level and
proficiency of Mexican domestic pianists. They serve as road maps not only for the
collective psyche and shared outlook of the newly-minted Mexican nation of the late
nineteenth century but also offer a possible practical measure of the level of women
dilettantes’ prowess at the keyboard. Like many of their European or American
counterparts, the majority of those who practised and performed in Mexican homes
can best be described as amateurs. The level of the pieces in these albums ranges
from easy to medium-difficult. Although the main aim of this repertoire was to
entertain in social gatherings, there are, however, more challenging pieces sprinkled
throughout, which offered more talented and ambitious players the opportunity to
shine. Shining, however, frequently meant adopting postures not normally sanctioned
in polite circles.
José Antonio Gómez devotes a whole section of his piano manual, the
Instructor Filarmónico on ‘how to sit at the piano’. Nevertheless, as a professional
musician and music teacher who spent a great deal of his time and energy teaching
women, he did not seem to find a moral conflict in publishing pieces that were in
open contradiction to moral conventions of propriety for women of the upper classes,
and did not find the need to caution women about proper demeanour in performance.
The instructions below are strictly descriptive, with the aim of achieving the best
playing posture. The lovely engraving portrays a young woman sitting at the piano.
The portray is taken from the advantage point of the viewer, thus making the
pianist’s posture unlikely opened to her right-hand side.
1. The body must be erect.
2. The distance between the stool and the piano ought to be of one foot.
3. The elbow ought to fold naturally in such a way that one can draw a horizontal
line from the tip of the elbow to the surface of the keys, accordingly adjusting the
height of the seat.
4. The wrists ought to be slightly higher than the elbows in order for them to
dominate/have control over the keyboard.
5. The fingers will be lifted in such a way that the shape of the hand be round.
6. The thumb ought never to leave the keyboard.
7. The fingers will be counted started by the thumb: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.45 (2.2, p.
José Antonio Gómez, Instructor Filarmónico. Nuevo método para piano (Mexico: Propiedad de los
editores, 1843).
Figure 5. Instructor Filarmónico. Vol. 1, Part 1, p.3.
Posture at the piano was illustrated in this manual by a picture of a woman,
which points to the fact that women were its prospective customers. That much is
also corroborated in that many pieces had women’s names in their titles, and that
women were frequent dedicatees—including those that did not conform to the norms
of etiquette. Girls were playing passionate and energetic pieces with a physical
energy that went beyond what was considered appropriate demeanour. Candace
Bailey has found that the technical demands of certain pieces of salon music in the
American South on a female pianist were, however, ‘hardly ladylike’, including wide
leaps, dynamic levels of ff, and hand-crossing. If the pianists were to adopt the advice
in etiquette books, they would not have been able to accomplish certain passages in
the piano pieces they played.46 The same observations hold true for pieces in the
Mexican albums. Many of the extreme demands of the music they contained came
from works by Mexican authors as well as by European composers represented in
Mexican editions. Carl Czerny’s Fantasia para forte piano sobre temas de Lucrecia
Borgia (Fantaisie on themes from Donizetti’s opera ‘Lucrezia Borgia’), which
Gómez published as the first piece of the second volume of Instructor Filarmónico,
offers an example of imported unladylike composition. This 28-page piece includes
scales and arpeggios in hemidemisemiquavers traversing most of the extent of the
keyboard—thus forcing the pianist to break advice number 1 of Gómez’s list—
Bailey, ‘The Antebellum ‘”Piano Girl”,’ 21.
passages in Presto ff, among other demands, also have in mind a skilful player who
has gone beyond the merely amateur.
Example 4. Carl Czerny, Fantaisie on themes from Donizetti’s opera
‘Lucrezia Borgia, p. 18
Another virtuoso work in the album is published as El Ángel. Variaciones
brillantes, by Henri Jerôme Bertini, which includes sudden changes in dynamics and
hand-crossing, as well as rapid arpeggios stretching over four octaves as a final
flourish (Examples 5 and 6). There is no doubt that the liberating qualities of
mastering musical pieces (at any level) but particularly at the higher levels of
challenge, gave women a sense of their power in a broader sense, even if their
performance was strictly in a domestic setting.
Example 5. Henri Jerôme Bertini, El Ángel. Variaciones brillantes, page 3
Example 6. Henri Jerôme Bertini, El Ángel. Variaciones brillantes, final bar.
Bailey concludes that, in the U. S. A.: ‘The gentle, sweet, correct, and
unpretending piano girl would almost never have displayed her abilities, even if she
possessed a virtuoso talent. To play the piano with serious physical exertion
(‘ostentatious’ and ‘conspicuous’ display) would be to transgress upon masculine
territory, which southern women were extremely reluctant to do’.47 This conclusion,
however, begs the question of how would women would actually have played the
pieces that contained requirements beyond the norm. Did they skip ‘dangerous’
passages? Did they bypass pieces altogether? Since pieces that demanded energetic
playing and physical exertion alternated with other pieces in the albums, one finds
those options hard to believe.
One can consequently presume that there was a certain suspension of the
rules of femininity, or piano-seating rules, when a young woman was playing. The
passionate artistic temperament necessary to convey feelings to others, which was a
Ibid., 43.
common idea associated with music, allowed performers including women of the
upper classes to demonstrate in public a force denied to them in other areas, during a
brief moment of performance. This idea of a double discourse is supported by the
conclusions of Montserrat Galí Boadella, who studied the lives of Mexican upperclass women during the introduction and flourishing of sentimental Romanticism in
Mexico. She concluded that two discourses coexisted: the didactic, moralistic and
costumbrista which emphasized women’s role as self-denying mother and
housewife, and the other literature—novels, short stories or poetry—where women
were portrayed in a freer, dreamier and novelistic manner, living in leisure and
interested in romantic love.48 We can add that the ‘romantic self’ of these women
performing music in the salon entered a space of temporary suspension, comparable
to a theatrical event where performers are allowed to take roles that will last only as
long as the drama lasts. In the tertulias, the moment women leave the piano they
must return to their domesticated selves. As we have seen, the process was not
without its dangers.
-A Mexican battle piece: José M. Pérez de León’s La batalla de Puebla
One can hardly think of a less feminine piece than a battle piece, yet we know they
were found on young women’s piano stands in much of the Western world. La
batalla de Puebla (The Battle of Puebla) it is an interesting piece that commemorates
a battle of 1856 between different Mexican factions fighting over liberal reforms that
threatened the Church’s interests and property. One side was led by Ignacio
Comonfort, Commander in Chief of the government army, whose task was to defend
the so-called ‘Juárez Law’ which directly affected the Church’s interests and
property, proclaimed by Benito Juárez in 1855; the other was the conservative selfdenominated army of the ‘Secret Legion’, led by Antonio Haro y Tamariz, whose
defence of the Church had been instigated by Puebla’s bishop Pelagio Antonio
Labastida y Dávalos. The better organised and armed federal army won the battle,
Montserrat Galí Boadella, Historias del bello sexo. La introducción del Romanticismo en México
(Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 2002),
and Comonfort received pleas from the bishop and the local female population to
accept the city’s surrender.49 This work is included in Matilde Zamora’s album.
La batalla de Puebla, for piano, by José M. Pérez de León, enacts General
Comonfort’s victory and is dedicated to him. It is similar to Franz Kotzwara’s The
Battle of Prague [c. 1788] for piano, probably the most famous salon battle piece in
its cues for bugle calls and other sounds of battle. It enjoyed immense success in
Europe and it might well have reached Mexican lands before La batalla de Puebla
was composed. The Mexican piece is seven pages long, longer than average for salon
pieces, and boasts a truly remarkable illustration on the front page. The piece clearly
subscribes to the liberal side of the liberal-conservative civil war that was taking
place at the time. The beautiful lithography shows the gallant-looking Mexican
liberal army, complete with elegant uniforms and well-groomed and fully-equipped
horses entering battle. Puebla’s picturesque landscape, famous for its many churches,
also displays the imposing volcano Popocatépetl in the background. The landscape,
architecture and people, proudly exhibited here, are a patriotic testimony and an
enticement to buy the piece.
Figure 6. José M. Pérez de León, ‘La Batalla de Puebla’ (México, Murguía)
R[icardo] M[iranda], ‘2. La Batalla de Puebla. José María Pérez de León,’ Artes de México,
‘Música de la Independencia a la Revolución’, 97 (March, 2010), 48-49.
The music is brilliant, with dynamic contrasts from pp to ff, and of an
unremitting simplicity around the keys of E-flat and A-flat major but with a bright
result based on simple technical effects. As is customary, the score includes explicit
instructions, with the musical descriptions to be performed by the piano player
including reference to the armies marching, the sighting of the armies, the approach
of the opposing troops, the preparation of the attack, the confusion of the besieged,
the attack, cannon fire, and shells falling. Contrasting sections add a dramatic quality
to the staged battle and its result. Two cantabile melodies at the end of the piece
depict iterated pleas to put an end to the fighting: the first, the Bishop’s plea to
Comonfort’s army to stop the artillery fire, and second, the women’s appeal to bring
the fighting to an end. The first is in the minor mode with a solemn quasi-recitative
tone to it (Example 7). The second melody is a more coquettish, almost danceable,
feminine cantabile, stressing the women’s communal appeal with parallel thirds
(Example 8). Music can symbolically provide national reconciliation by
demonstrating how to harmonise different political notions within the country.
Example 7. La batalla de Puebla, bars 182-192
Example 8. La batalla de Puebla, bars 198-207
‘With Grace and Nimbleness.’ Salon Dancing
The fact that the overwhelming majority of pieces in the albums surveyed here were
danceable offers but one indication of dance’s popularity. In order to be well
received, and to be a frequent guest in tertulias, learning to dance became a social
skill of the utmost importance. Men and women without dancing knowledge would
have been relegated to the passive role of observers. For the columnist ‘Tío Nonilla’
this voyeuristic stance was not without its charms; but it was not the social point of a
gathering. ‘Tío Nonilla’ claimed that since he ‘does not dance, does not make love,
and, in short, does nothing that the lovers do during dances, he observes everything
that takes place, not because he is nosy, God forbid!, he can solely dedicate himself
to have something to report to his beautiful female readers’.50
For most, dance classes were a necessity in order to cut a fashionable figure
in the gatherings and formal balls that punctuated the social season. From the 1820s
there were newspaper announcements inviting people to balls either of general or
restricted admission. For instance, in 1826 the Institute of Literature and Commerce
announced one on Saturday 8 April for its subscribers, ‘at the usual time’.51 The
same year, the chargé d’affaires of the British Crown extended an invitation to a
very exclusive ball where he ‘requests that those persons whom he had the
distinction to invite to the dance on the honour of his Majesty […] present the letters
of invitation to the indicated person at the legation’s entrance’.52
Since the end of colonial times, dance was popular both as entr’acte in
theatres and as part of private social gatherings. Popular and domestic balls were also
common. Dance historian Maya Ramos Smith claims that during the first two
decades of the nineteenth centuries there was an intensification in the process of
adoption of popular dances in the salon of the upper classes.53 Indeed, Baroque
dances common during the Spanish dominion such as minuets, contradanzas and
boleras survived in Mexico into independent times and coexisted with modern
dances. The waltz was one of the first modern dances to become popular in Mexico
‘Soirées de Mr. Levasseur,’ El Tío Nonilla. Periódico Político, Enredador, Chismográfico y de
Trueno 4, 9 Sept. 1849.
El Sol, 3 Apr. 1826.
Ibid., 22 Apr. 1826.
Maya Ramos Smith, ‘“Baila con gusto y aprovechamiento”: los bailes de salón I,’ 4, unpublished
text quoted with permission from the author.
in the first decade of the century, followed by redowas, mazurkas, polkas, gallops,
etc. By the mid-nineteenth century Baroque dances had been superseded in a process
that ran parallel to the progressive adoption and adaptations of popular dances into
the salon.54
Around the 1840s, we find a proliferation of advertisements for dance
instruction and dance tutors for Mexican youth. Advertisements emphasized its
social and educational importance as one more way of integrating with European
culture and values. For the leisured upper classes, Europeanization was equivalent to
gentrification and it implied polishing one’s manners in order to be accepted in
society. According to that period’s records, ‘decent’ and ‘honourable’ dance is ‘the
most useful gymnastic exercise; it enhanced strength and agility’, and ‘in addition to
bringing about pleasure, fortifies health’.55 The social value of music and dance was
heightened for salon gatherings, which continued through wars and internal political
unrest, while theatres by contrast had extremely irregular seasons and sometimes
remained closed for long periods.56
The presumably Spanish dance instructor Don Ángel Martínez considered
that by highlighting his knowledge of the European dance scene he could market his
classes more effectively. In an advertisement he wrote that: ‘Recently arrived in this
capital from the main European capitals, [he] offers his services to the ladies and
gentlemen who would like to honour him with their fondness for the following
dances: mazurkas, gallops with figurations, rigodons, greca, etc. etc.’ He announced
the opening of his academy every day from 7 to 9 pm or, alternatively, private
lessons at a client’s own home.57 Another prestigious dance master, Domingo Ibarra,
included mention of local dances in his advertisement. He offered to teach ‘the basics
of dance, rigodon steps, gragouillade, batiman, gambols, etc. All kinds of dances
including boleros, sonecillos del país, quadrille figures, mazurkas, galops with
figures, and contradanza.’58 The level of specialization within such announcements
speaks of a developed dance culture in the salons, for it was now necessary to know
several styles and steps, including local ones, in order to show versatility at social
Ramos Smith, ‘“Baila con gusto y aprovechamiento”,’ passim.
‘El baile,’ El Mosaico Mexicano III, (1840): 261.
The closure of theatres was a matter of concern regarding its impact on social mores, as we shall see
in Chapter Four.
Diario del Gobierno, 13 July 1839.
Ibid., 28 July 1839.
Ibarra additionally published a lavishly illustrated dance tutor entitled
Collection of ballroom dances and method to learn them without the help of an
instructor.59 This manual not only provides detailed instructions on how to dance the
most popular genres, but also carries illustrations and a musical piece to represent
each one. Couple dances, accounting for most of them, included: waltz, contradanza,
danza habanera, polka elegante, schottish, varsovienne, polka mazurka, camelina,
and polka camelina. There were also a few ensemble dances, ‘with four or more
couples’: mazurka de tertulia, quadrilles, and historic quadrilles. According to
Ramos Smith, ‘the new century’s spirit, republican, bourgeois, romantic and
industrialised, was manifested in two main ways: the communal or collective, as
dance-play-representation exemplified by contradanzas/quadrilles and the couple
dance, withdrawn into itself, represented by the waltz’.60
In the introduction to his dance manual, Ibarra explains the many reasons why
youth—men and women alike—should learn how to dance properly. Dancing
provided the body ‘with grace and nimbleness’, as well as being youth’s favourite
entertainment. Nevertheless, instruction in dance, in the form of a do-it-yourself
manual such as this one, was also an educational device that would provide youth ‘at
least with the ballroom dances in use, so they can exercise well-bred manners,
indispensable to shine in society.’61 Ibarra was probably trying to overcome certain
young men’s resistance to dance, or at least to being educated in dancing, by
reminding them that by not knowing the right steps, they could become the laughingstock of a group, looking socially inept, or remaining isolated in company. All this
could be avoided by knowing the proper steps to the dance and by ‘politely hold[ing]
the lady who deigned to accompany him to dance, never forgetting that a refined man
fears, at all times, to touch a hair of a lady’s head.’62
Domingo Ibarra, Colección de bailes de sala, y método para aprenderlos sin auxilio de maestro
(Mexico: Nabor Chávez, 1860). The Colección must have sold well since Nabor Chávez issued a
reprint in 1862, which he proudly identified as the second edition on the title page.
Ramos Smith, “‘Baila con gusto y aprovechamiento’,” 3.
Ibarra, Colección, 6.
Ibid., 7.
The camelina was a local dance devised by instructors Eduardo Gavira and Domingo
Ibarra himself.63 This dance, which the authors claimed had acquired enormous
popularity within Mexican society, was a proud original Mexican invention with
European roots, and very different from popular Mexican dances. It was truly a
Mexican contribution of international inspiration. Ibarra explained that the camelina
...the daughter of the Lady of the camellias, because its music contains part of the
opera Traviata and, notwithstanding that the camelina was born in Mexico, it does
not resemble the Jarabe or the Palomo or even less a theatre padedú […] but it is in
the style of the fashionable current dances according to the system Mr. Labordé [sic]
established for tertulias del gran tono (genteel soirées).64 (2.3, p. 310)
Ibarra provided a detailed explanation of the contradanza camelina, which was a
couples dance where pairs arranged themselves around the room with men’s backs
turned toward the centre of the room and women on the outside. The couples held
each other’s right hand while with the other hand women held their dresses and men
placed their left hands at their backs, palms up (see plate below). Since the book is a
self-tutoring manual, the dance master provides a very detailed, specialized, and to
our lay eyes equally complicated account, of how the couples should proceed, which
includes taking steps such as balancés, pamarchés, asamblés and ambotés among
others (all of which he explained at the beginning of the book).65
Dance instructions are provided for the camelina, and also for hybrid genres such as polka camelina
and contradanza camelina, Ibid., 26-30.
Padedú is the Spanish form for Pas de deux. Ibid., 26. Monsieur Laborde printed his dance tutor Le
Cotillon in Paris in 1853. It is almost certain that this publication served as Ibarra’s model. Laborde’s
edition contains 15 tinted lithograph plates. The cotillon was a social dance similar to the quadrille
also with ensemble figures for which Laborde provided detailed instruction. Ibarra’s manual,
however, is much more ambitious and extensive: 74 pages with detailed instruction for 10 dances
versus the approximate 25 pages and one dance of Laborde’s edition.
Manuals were not a substitute for teachers; they frequently served as a teaching aid for those who
developed them. Cristina Mendoza, ‘Entre maestros y manuales, la tradición de la enseñanza de la
danza,’ Casa del Tiempo VIII, 90-91 (2001), 56.
Figure 7. ‘Polka Camelina,’ plate 3
Colección de Bailes de Sala
The Camelina was, then, a Mexican concoction made from mainly European
ingredients. The form is ternary, common for dances, in duple rhythm. The use of
guitar accompaniment as alternative to the piano in the Camelina can be taken as
both Mexican and popular: the Camelina is the only work with guitar
accompaniment in Ibarra’s Collection. The flexibility that such an accompaniment
would have provided leads us to believe its authors were hoping that the dance would
be popularised beyond the upper-class salon. The accompaniment is for seven-string
guitar, also known as Mexican guitar and the most popular guitar in Mexico at the
time. The subscript 7 indicated the use of the lower, seventh string, which usually
doubled the octave. The piece, especially in its first section, requires an advanced
guitarist, most likely a male guitarist, for women of the upper classes rarely played
the instrument.66
The seven-string guitar coexisted with the Spanish six-string guitar, during most of the century,
finally falling into disuse. The guitarra séptima, a Mexican variant of the seven-string guitar, has
double strings, totalling 14. I thank guitarist and musicologist José Luis Segura Maldonado for his
insights in this matter.
Example 9. E[duardo] Gavira, La Camelina,
for piano or guitar, first page
Colección de Bailes de Sala
-The Jarabe
Musical popular pieces with local colour such as jarabes and sonecillos made their
way into upper-class salons as an incipient form of Mexican musical profiling more
or less consciously undertaken by the Mexican elite. Here, the profiling is
accomplished through the ‘feminine’ formats of short salon pieces. This phenomenon
was, of course, common in the Old World too. For instance, Goldberg’s findings
support this fact in the adoption of ‘native’ dances by the Polish upper classes in
Chopin’s time. The krakowiak and the mazurka, for instance, were recognised as
‘markers of ethnic nationality’.67 In Mexico, although pre-existent from the latter part
of the Spanish rule, this occurrence became intensified after Independence as part of
the Romantic interest in the local: folkloric dances made a parallel entrance into the
salon and within ballet at the theatre.68
Goldberg, Music in Chopin’s Warsaw, 63.
Regarding the Romantic ballet and practices in the theatre, Mexico followed European trends. Maya
Ramos Smith, El ballet en México en el Siglo XIX. De la independencia al segundo imperio (18251867), Los Noventa, 62 (Mexico: Alianza/Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, c1991), 126,
One of these identity markers in Mexico was the jarabe. Jarabe, literally
syrup, was a popular dance composed of one or more sones: popular melodies with
or without lyrics that included local variations.69 Musically speaking, the jarabe is a
popular and flexible dance genre. For instance, the chain jarabe (jarabe encadenado)
is a succession of sones with infinite variations according to regional tunes, time and
occasion. Accompanying instruments could include jaranitas, psaltery, harp,
bandolón, mandolin, marimba and/or guitarrón. Contrapuntal improvisation around
the sones was, and still is, the norm in this kind of performance, which saw its
heyday in the second half of the nineteenth century and first decades of the twentieth.
This ternary dance was popularized by the insurgents against the Spanish rule
in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, at which point it gained a symbolic
nationalistic value. Its origins have been traced to the Spanish danzas zapateadas,
such as the seguidilla or the fandango. Ruben M. Campos, a pioneer researcher on
Mexico’s folklore, ascribed a clearly nationalistic value to jarabe stating that: ‘The
jubilant joy of the Mexican people is the national jarabe’. In his opinion, it was a
prerogative of the new race, mixed from different Indian groups and white
descendants. It was the most popular genre and it is a loose, couple dance that was
performed in open and closed spaces to celebrate the freedom that came with
Mexican independence.70
The jarabe was popular even before the war of independence. Several
accusations against it are recorded in the Tribunal of the Inquisition. In 1752, ‘El
Jarro’ (The Jug) was denounced to the Tribunal by the clergy, which had prohibited
any song or dance that was offensive to religion and decorum, on threat of
excommunication, a large fine and a public whipping. From then on repeated
accusations about jarabes traverse the second half of the eighteenth century, either
for its erotic connotations or because of the subversive content of the lyrics.
According to Gabriel Saldívar, who performed in-depth research into jarabes from
different epochs and parts of the country, Inquisitors in charge of prohibiting and
abolishing the sones asked ‘all kind of perverse details about the wiggles, shaking,
It is probable that the Jarabe was so common and its forms so loose that Domingo Ibarra did not
consider it warranted inclusion his book, despite its being a salon staple. Despite its gentrification in
the form of salon dance, the Jarabe has retained its mainly popular, low-class, rebellious character in
the Mexican mind to this day.
Rubén M. Campos, El folklore musical de las ciudades. Investigación acerca de la música
mexicana para bailar y cantar, [1930], Facsimile (Mexico: Cenidim, 1995), 53-64. Henri Herz played
a jarabe during his concerts (see Chapter Five).
touching up, gestures and actions within the dances, which were against decorum,
rather with impudent desire than with the charitable aid of saving souls’.71 The
sexual allusions of the lyrics, frequently involving monks or nuns, probably made the
jarabe alluring but forbidden and off limits for the upper-class respectable salon
versions. Not only local dances such as the jarabe but also specific sones such as the
chuchumbé, pan de jarabe, el animal, and others including the waltz, received
admonitions and prohibitions from the authorities of New Spain at the end of the
colonial period.72 As John Chasteen has demonstrated, prohibitions of popular
dances, and of folk dances particularly, were also common in Argentina at this time.
Chasteen argues that prohibitions were prompted not only by moral reasons but by
fears that races and social classes would intermix: ‘New patterns of social intercourse
surrounding dance, with its accompanying conflicts, were occurring in many parts of
Spanish America during the later eighteenth century’. 73 Chasteen also demonstrates,
however, that in practice these dances were tolerated and that there was no particular
zeal among those in charge of enforcing the ban.74
The jarabe required the transformative powers of time and the maturation of
the newly-minted Mexican society to gain acceptance in all strata of society. Album
60 from the National Conservatory includes El cariño. Jarabe tapatío. It was
published by M. Murguía as part of the musical series El Repertorio. In this case, the
inclusion of the guitar as an alternative accompanying instrument reminds the salon
player of the jarabe’s popular origin, and the simplicity of the accompaniment
compared to that of Camelina makes it easy to picture this piece being played in a
pulquería75 or any other popular dance hall, by any available player. In this case, the
lyrics are interspersed between the instrumental parts. This is a short piece of
remarkable simplicity in C Major, with 4 eight-bar periods with repetitions, which is
reminiscent of its festive popular origin (Example 10). The distinguished-looking
Gabriel Saldívar, ‘El jarabe. Baile popular mexicano,’ Anales del Museo Nacional de México 2,
(1935), 305-326. The picaresque aspect of jarabe still delights Mexicans of all classes It is still sung
in informal reunions, on bus rides, outings, etc.
Herrera, ‘Quaderno Mayner,’ 99-101.
John Chasteen, ‘Patriotic Footwork: Social Dance and the Watershed of Independence in Buenos
Aires.’ In State and Society in Spanish America during the Age of Revolution, ed. By Victor M. UribeUran, 177.
Ibid., 179-80.
Bars where pulque, a traditional alcoholic drink brewed from the agave (a type of cactus) since preHispanic times, was, and still is, sold. During Colonial times and the nineteenth century these locals
served as gathering points for men and women of the lower classes. Dance was not uncommonly part
of the entertainment.
lady on the cover (Figure 8) and the publication of this piece in a music series that
included for the most part European composers for home consumption attest to the
fact that this is, nonetheless, an example of a gentrified salon jarabe.76 Once the
jarabe was accepted into the salon, according to Ruben M. Campos, young and older
ladies from the upper classes would dance it, and it was common for a couple to
change into traditional costume and then do a demonstration before the public at the
Figure 8. ‘El Cariño’, jarabe tapatío.
(Mexico, M. Murguía, 1850s)
Figure 9. ‘Colección de 24
Canciones y Jarabes’
(Hamburg, J.A. Böhme, 1834)
Example 10. ‘El Cariño’, jarabe tapatío, bars 9-11
Fanny Calderón de la Barca narrates several instances when she witnessed jarabes being played and
danced. She clearly enjoyed these occasions and her testimony is valuable because she observed
jarabes in different circumstances and, although, mainly in popular events, she got to see the lady of
the house playing jarabes at the piano for her servants to dance to. She even transcribed and translated
some of the lyrics for her sister. Frances Calderón de la Barca, Life in Mexico (1839-1842) (London:
Chapman and Hall, 1843). Accessed 08 01 2008,
Campos, El folklore musical de las ciudades, 185.
The vogue of the jarabe reached Europe fairly quickly, for already in 1834
publisher J. A. Böhme printed a collection of them in Hamburg, whose cover is
reproduced here (Figure 9). El Cariño was probably printed later, around 1850, but
the dancers’ pose and attire are practically identical to that of El Cariño. The
standardization of this costume in images apparently started to take place at an early
stage and it displays signs of a case of ‘auto-ethnography’, to use Mary Louise
Pratt’s term.78 More precisely in this case, what is at work is the construction of an
‘export product’ that would sell as ‘Mexican’ in Europe and, in a game of mirrors,
would produce an image that would return from Europe to Mexico and that Mexicans
could call their own.
The earlier versions of the jarabe, like the ones illustrated here, were
published anonymously, probably as an acknowledgement of its popular collective
origin. Later in the century, jarabes became standard compositions in more
elaborated forms by well-known composers such as piano virtuosi and composers
Tomás León and Julio Ituarte, among others.79 As in other areas of musical
development in Mexico, Gómez was a pioneer. He composed a jarabe for the salon
in the form of Variations, in 1841.80
Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge,
1992), 7.
John Koegel found a remarkable example of a jarabe of the 1820s or later for two guitars with
instructions for tuning the seven string guitar, in manuscript SMMS M2 from the Sutro Library in San
Francisco, John Koegel, ‘Nuevas fuentes musicales para danza, teatro y salón de la Nueva España,’
trans. by Yael Bitrán, Heterofonía 116-117 (1997), 22.
For a detailed appraisal of this piece, see Chapter Three.
Example 11. José Antonio Gómez, Variaciones sobre el tema
del jarabe mexicano, page 1
Popular music and dances undoubtedly played a role in the construction of
national identity in many Spanish-American nations after independence. In the
Argentinian case, Chasteen has claimed that ‘Romantic notions of national identity,
based on the idea of a deeply rooted folk culture, contributed to the valorization of a
supposedly representative and generic “common people” whose presumably
distinctive aesthetic sense found expression in dance.’81 A similar situation took
place in Mexico, although the jarabe presents an early case of shared national pride
by different classes and races through the Mexican social ladder.
-European dances
Mexican dances are more significant for the theme of this study, but the majority of
the dances contained in the albums were European and had great success in Mexican
salons. Waltzes, schottisches, gallops, polkas, mazurkas, danzas, contradanzas, jotas
aragonesas, among others, came as imports and were sold in Mexico or were
Chasteen, ‘Patriotic Footwork: Social Dance,’ 182.
composed by more or less knowledgeable local composers and printed and sold
there. The formulaic nature of dances made them an easy compositional opportunity
for an inexperienced composer or arranger, and their popularity was undoubtedly
alluring, practically guaranteeing them almost instantaneous execution on the dance
floor. In many of these dances, the pianist turns into the then nonexistent automatic
music player for the others to dance—a kind of designated driver for the rest to have
fun, with the advantage that, given the usually low technical demands on the player,
she or he could be easily released of her or his duties by a fellow pianist. As we
mentioned earlier, these European dances were taught by local dance masters and
were given detailed instructions in manuals. Knowing how to dance them was a
requisite in soirées.
Of the European dances, the waltz was the most popular in Mexico. To waltz
was as risky as it was enticing a business for the upper classes. Not only did the
dance have popular origins but, according to Ramos Smith, it symbolised
‘democracy and the new order: the Republic and the bourgeoisie, and proposed a
new, and until then extraordinary link between the dancing couple’.82 It embodied a
‘new couple on an equal footing, which not only kept a closeness of sensual and
erotic charge but that could be concentrated within itself’.83 And nineteenth-century
Mexicans loved to waltz. Not for nothing does Ibarra open his manual with waltz
instructions, including an introduction where he traces the history of the dance and
its evolution. Nevertheless, Ibarra emphasises propriety and decency at all times. His
detailed instructions for the man on how to handle the woman in order to protect her
are an indirect reminder of the moral perils (and delights) implicit in the alluring
proximity the dance fostered: ‘remember that a flower withers when it is touched.’
The following, rather cryptic, plate accompanies the instructions.84
Ramos Smith, ‘Baila con gusto y aprovechamiento,’ 1.
Ibid., 2.
Ibarra reminds his readers that the waltz was forbidden by the Inquisition.
Figure 10. Plate 2, fragment,
Colección de Bailes de Sala
The polka too was very popular, although we do not have to take too
seriously the opening sentence of the published introduction to pianist virtuoso Henri
Herz’s La Polka del Siglo Diez y Nueve [The Polka of ‘El Siglo XIX’] published
during his visit of 1849-1850 to Mexico: ‘Among musical compositions over several
years to this point, none has caused a greater sensation than the polka’. But the dance
did indeed cause a furore in Mexico and the rest of the Western world. Although
introduced earlier, apparently the polka was popularised during the MexicanAmerican war in 1847 with the American soldiers, shortly after that Herz published
his dance in Mexico City; and during the following decades, it became a salon
staple.85 Herz’s polka was dedicated to Mexican ladies. He distributed it in sheetmusic form at a private concert and then granted the rights to the Mexican publisher
Ignacio Cumplido, who announced it in his newspaper El Siglo Diez y Nueve, which
gave the piece its title. Cumplido then published it in his ladies’ magazine El Álbum
Mexicano. According to Domingo Ibarra, the polka’s seductive movements are
difficult to execute with the required naturalness. He takes care to explain in detail
the steps of this immensely popular dance.86 The schottische gained wide popularity
in Mexico too, described by Ibarra as a country-dance from climes of extreme cold,
and intended to raise the dancers’ temperature.87 It, too, was introduced to Mexico
by American soldiers, this time via the ports of Tampico and Matamoros after 1850,
In the border Mexican states with the U.S.A. a local forms of polka still enjoys a healthy popularity.
The ‘polka norteña’, with accordion, is danced in a similar fashion on both sides of the border with
cowboy-like attire for men and full skirts and short boots for women.
Ibarra, Colección, 19-20.
Ibid., 20-21.
and in Ibarra’s words it ‘invaded the capital’s salons, causing an unremitting
enthusiasm to this day’.88
Figure 11. ‘Baile de la polca’, Calendario de Abraham López para 1846
Iconographical and musical meanings in Mexican sheet music
Linking sound and sight together provides an effective way to understand music in
social and cultural contexts, as Richard Leppert has demonstrated in his celebrated
book The Sight of Sound.89 In the nineteenth century, images are associated with
music in at least two ways. The more conspicuous are musical images in paintings,
drawings or prints (the focal point of Leppert’s research); the second concerns
images associated with music, as in sheet-music covers, which form the main object
of this section. The difference is important because while studies in musical
iconography routinely cover the former, they are for the most part silent on the latter.
Thus, the studying of these not intrinsically musical images merits special
theorization. Peter Burke provides compelling arguments for undertaking the task of
using images as historical sources, since they illuminate the past in specific ways
complementary to the use of texts.
[I]mages allow us to ‘imagine’ the past more vividly. […] The uses of images in
different periods as objects of devotion or means or persuasion, of conveying
information or giving pleasure, allows them to bear witness to past forms of religion,
Richard Leppert, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation and the History of the Body (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1995).
knowledge, belief, delight and so on. Although texts also offer valuable clues,
images themselves are the best guide to the power of visual representations in the
religious and political life of past cultures.
Burke warns about the untranslatability of images, and advocates for a knowledge of
the cultural keys that are needed to situate them in their context. In addition, The
specific paradox involved in the analysis of a silent material support when studying
music has rightly been noted by Leppert, for interpreting the images is made ‘at the
ironic expense of musical sonority as such’.91 Although culturally difficult to
decipher, images have a declarative power, which reflects cultural markers
intentionally put together with the music they are carrying. Or to extend Clifford
Geertz´s metaphor, images can be used as sources of symbols from which to unpick
the meanings within webs of significance.92 In this case, images provide an
additional source to place with all other fragmentary evidence which assists in the
intricate construction of a socio-cultural history of music in nineteenth-century
The value of cover images derives in the first instance from the fact they were
the initial impressions a potential buyer received when looking for sheet music. Since
lithography became widespread in Mexico at the end of the 1830s, a good amount of
the music printed in the country took advantage of the innovation in order to display
designed covers with an attractive visual message to buyers. At this point, when
specialization on music was incipient by the press, more printers’ attention was
lavished on covers than on content. In this concluding section of the chapter, we
explore these images, brought together in musical albums, through the issues of a
Mexican imagery within Romantic iconography: the construction of iconic images of
a Mexican landscape and historical continuity imbued with ideals of order and
progress; and of Mexican women, and the double, or multivalent, discourse attached
to their images, including matters of contention and idealization. The orientalisation
of self and other in some of the landscapes and the images of women attests to
Mexico’s incorporation of this widespread European trend, while the images of
Peter Burke, Eyewitnessing. The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence, (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell
University Press, 2008), 13.
Leppert, The Sight of Sound, 70.
Clifford Geertz, ‘Description: Toward and Interpretive Theory of Culture,’ The Interpretation of
Culture (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 3-30.
upper-class men and women dressed in fashionable attire speak of the construction
and the search for a national self through popular models.
Much of what occurs here is closely related to the idea of ‘transculturation’,
coined by the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz as a way of undermining ‘the
homogenizing impact implicit in the term “acculturation,”’ a view which obfuscated
the true dynamics of a two-way ‘toma y daca’ (give and take) process.93 In a critique
of Ortiz, Silvia Spitta warns that in order to be useful the concept should be set in
specific contexts. In the process of adopting and adapting images and music to the
Mexican context, Mexicans put forward their own concerns and agenda. While most
of the music genres and pieces are standardized, it is by unpicking the role played by
the ‘local’ that enables the pieces to render specific, historically-significant
-The Mexican Landscape
The creation of a national image was an important component of the new Mexico.
The writing of a national history, the establishment of national symbols, the
invention of a symbolic national landscape and national types of persons were,
among many other activities, those that the governing elite was to undertake during
the first decades of independent life. In like vein, Mexican or naturalized European
landscapes commonly illustrate sheet-music covers. The landscape is frequently a
forest or a rustic countryside image. An urban landscape, with neo-classical buildings
or picturesque parks and urban promenades were also favourite subjects. The
portrayals are idealized and there is a clear relationship to Romantic depictions of
European forests and landscapes that arrived in Mexico on sheet-music covers or
literature. J.M. Pérez de León’s El Pensil Delicioso (The lovely garden), in the album
belonging to Matilde Zamora (Figure 12), shows a recreation of the magnificence of
nature in contrast to man. The anonymous song Un A Dios (A good-bye) (Figure 13),
in the same album, does similarly. Here there is a conscious effort to portray ‘the
Mexican’ in the landscape: a prominent palm tree, rugged bleak mountains, a
Silvia Spitta, ‘Transculturation and the Ambiguity of Signs in Latin America’ in Between Two
Waters. Narratives of Transculturation in Latin America, (Houston, TX: Rice University Press, 1995),
muleteer and his mule. The vastness of landscape versus the insignificance of man
was, after all, a motto of Romantic painting to which Mexicans were not indifferent.
The stately country house with arches, perhaps a hacienda, depicts a
civilizing response to nature. In both images, humans are insignificant compared to
nature, a common trait in Romantic imagery of the time. Un A Dios, however, is a
Spanish song that makes reference to the Alhambra, the walled Moorish pleasure
palace situated in the Andalusian city of Granada. In addition, the inclusion of guitar
in the accompaniment functions as a Spanish identity marker. The song’s main theme
is a lovers’ farewell witnessed by the window of the Alhambra’s magnificent
building. The Arabic origin of the city, taken over by Catholic monarchs in the 15th
century, bestows upon the song an exotic tinge present in the reference to a ‘morisca
ventana’ (Moorish window). The music, nevertheless, is a dramatic aria of the belcanto operatic style for high voice; there are no specific ‘Spanish’ or ‘Mexican’
elements. This frequent cohabitation of disparate and even contradictory elements in
the sheet-music published in Mexico mirrors the incipient jigsaw puzzle of national
profiling at the time.
Figure 12. El Pensil Delicioso (The lovely garden),
waltz , J. M. Pérez de León (M. Murguía)
Figure 13. Un A Dios, unidentified composer,
for guitar, voice and piano, (M. Murguía y Ca.)
When the depiction was supposedly of a European landscape, the scarcity of
information or models available sometimes made for an inaccurate, caricature-like,
image, although the information implicit in the painter’s gaze perhaps tells a story of
its own. A hodge-podge of elements and perspectives prevail in the cover art for
Franz Hünten’s Los Bordes del Rhin, Gran Vals) (The Banks of the Rhine. Grand
Waltz) (Figure 14). Drawn by Campillo, one of Mexico’s foremost illustrators, it
depicts lush vegetation in the foreground, and in the background sits an improbable
castle—after all, there is only one castle in Mexico to use as a model!—facing a cliff
on the Rhine. On the river itself the steam-boats look more like children’s toys than
ships capable of sailing. The viewpoint of the person looking at the painting is clear
from the trees and plants, which look like Mexican rather than European species,
depicted in great detail and clarity in contrast to the vagueness of the background
river scene. It is as if the painter, alongside us, as viewers, is looking from Mexico
towards Europe. In this ‘give and take’, it is the viewers’ Mexican perspective that
colonizes the European other. Murguía’s pirated version of the piece, which
preserves no trace of its original source, converted it into a local staple. Implicit in
this edition is the idea that the player could have played Hünten’s waltz from a
Mexican perspective, with no remorse for lack of fidelity to a (European) original.
Figure 14. Los bordes del Rhin. Gran Vals by Franz Hünten,
printed by M. Murguía.
Women featured prominently on title-page illustrations of sheet music; their images
appear more frequently than those of men. They were in the foreground of the
construction of the national landscape not only for the locals but also for foreigners.
These covers not only added value to the music; they were also statements of pride in
national beauty. Therefore it is hardly surprising that in these portrayals idealization
is the general rule. This approach to women is very distant from the satirical,
sometimes frankly contemptuous, characterizations of La Balanza Amorosa,
discussed in Chapter One, where women’s weaknesses and defects were highlighted.
In the title-page images, illustrators could portray women the way they imagined or
wanted them to be, without having to preach to them about their morals and
The ‘Scales of Love’ article contained one positive mention of music-making
at home in its description of ‘Good women for motherhood as well for a polka or
tending to the sick. Tender without affectation’, but this reference stays within the
domestic context. 95 But the women featured in cover pages are far from the
prototype of a ‘good mother’. Most of them are young, beautiful and flirtatious, with
At this point none of these sheet-music covers have elements of caricature. That phenomenon will
begin to appear as political critique only from the 1880s.
El Álbum Mexicano, 86.
fashionable, smart or more conservative dress and no child or suggestion of domestic
entourage in view. The covers were indeed what men liked to see: (young), nubile
attractive women, and not (married) women surrounded by children, representing
domestic responsibility and a duty of care. It was doubtless a publicity device for
men, the main buyers of the scores. Moreover, women also served as inspiration to
(mainly) male composers. In this capacity, their role was the passive one of muse.
Thus, although home music was, as we have suggested, mainly a women’s affair,
many signs surrounding it involved men’s interests and ideals. This is a case where
as Matthew Head has demonstrated: ‘this was music for women in only the most
fragile sense. In the larger picture, it served masculine needs, desires, and (to some
problematic extent) power.’96
The frequency and standardization of images that deliberately combine
innocence and mischief, prudishness and flirtatiousness, encourages speculation that
they were taken as socially accepted eroticized images to delight and to fantasize
upon. An oblique look, with profile on display, and enticingly showing more skin
than was acceptable in public circumstances, are some of the features of the women
Figure 15. ‘La Caprichosa,’ polka.
Detail of front page.
Figure 16. ‘Dolores,’ Presente
Amistoso (1851), p.198.
Head, ‘“If the Pretty Little Hand Won’t Stretch”,’ 243.
By contrast, there were also the images a man looking for a wife could take
as inspiration: young and beautiful women with proper and demure attires and
attitudes. In these cases, the woman’s gaze is bashfully turned to one side. ‘Emilia’ is
holding a book, probably the Bible, while the girl on the cover of Araujo’s waltz La
trenza de sus cabellos’ (Her hair’s braid) is modestly dressed, her braided hair being
a signal of good education and upbringing. The double standard regarding women we
have inferred from manuals and literary texts in Chapter One returns here as
iconographical evidence. The virginal appearance of these young women stands in
sharp contrast with the more daringly enticing image of ‘La Caprichosa’, the
capricious and wilful female.
Figure 17. ‘Emilia,’ Presente amistoso
(1851), p.156.
Figure 18. ‘La trenza de sus cabellos,’
waltz by Teófilo Araujo
For women too, illustrations were an additional bonus to the music they were
purchasing. Scores became beautiful objects to collect and treasure, but a single
image could also serve as a veritable fashion engraving and a form of inspiration:
they provided models of hairstyles, jewellery or dresses ready for emulation by their
upper-class users. Such models existed in the musical world outside the home:
female opera singers visiting the country were models of fashion for their followers,
and plates replicated the fashions they wore. Leppert claims that music fashion plates
‘are to be visually consumed in an act producing desire, which precedes another,
more material, act of consumption, buying.’ Women are implicated visually and
sonorically in this act of consumption.97
Figure 19. La Esmeralda, Varsoviana, by Ph. Jourdan.
Among the examples of sheet music in albums we also find women dressed
exotically as a handsome, Spanish, flirtatious or orientalized. ‘Beautiful Anita’ is
holding a tambourine in a reference that Mexicans would identify with Spanish
popular music (Figure 20). Exotic also was the image of a blonde woman,
Clementina, dressed in Mexican attire and drawn against a Mexican landscape
(Figure 21). Disseminating this type of imagery, where diverse models inhabited
Mexican settings or contexts, was a way of satisfying Romantic fantasies of
exoticism widespread in nineteenth-century arts. It also represented one more way,
parallel to the music contained in the sheet music, to underscore Mexican
cosmopolitanism by integrating European models to Mexico while putting Mexico
on the map as a veritable world of its own for Europeans. Within this framework, the
blonde and the Spanish-looking women are ultimately as Mexican as the
(standardized) dark-skinned, Indian-looking, Mexican woman.
Leppert, The Sight of Sound, 11.
Figure 20.‘La hermosa Anita,’
Polka Mazurka
Figure 21. ‘Clementina,’
Presente amistoso (1851), p.161
Nineteenth-century music albums put together lovingly by women amateurs
anticipating moments of enjoyment, on their own or with family and friends, lie
today in pitiful abandonment. These albums are a treasure trove for the student of
music and especially one in interested in the lives of nineteenth-century women.
These dust-covered albums are an analogous image to the composers and genres
contained therein that are past their heyday and are no longer part of the mainstream
music history of professional performers in public spaces and ‘great’ composers and
their texts. In this case, the albums’ main performers were women amateurs and
their main aim was social interaction within their homes. The main characters in the
life of these albums fall outside the musical historiographical canon.
These albums were catalysts which performed an important function in their
owners’ and their acquaintances’ quotidian lives; they are a genre closely tied into
the social mores and private sphere of entire generations of women.98 In the Mexican
case a closer look at these albums helps to establish their place in the wider picture of
The revealing and insightful texts by Jeanice Brooks, James Davies, Matthew Head and Candace
Bailey are palpable proofs that this neglect is beginning to be tackled. Bonny H. Miller’s 1994 works
on music in women magazines in the U.S.A. were pioneering in the ways that they looked closely at
this repertoire with a social historian’s eyes.
the formation of Mexican nationhood, the role of women in this undertaking, and a
little-studied cultural umbilical cord between Europe and America.
The profusion of albums, their geographical ubiquity and consistency of
repertoire, however, begs additional attention and explanation. Assembled
everywhere from Warsaw to London and from Charlotte to Mexico City, nineteenthcentury music albums evince strikingly similar characteristics: they predominantly
contain dance music and operatic repertoire; they were feminine objects, bound and
engraved in similar ways. The popularity and consistency of these objects across
continents is, at least, a confirmation of the successful popularization of a certain
kind of musical taste and repertoire of the European upper-classes inside and outside
its geographical borders. Albums are also ‘witnesses of a personal and collective
construction of memory and of its social transmission’, in Jeanice Brooks’ words.99
And, with local variations, they represent the assimilation of a Romantic sentimental
culture, which together with artistic, economic and professional interests played a
role in the culture of composing, printing, buying and binding music.
In this chapter, albums served as a means to reconstruct and imagine part of
the world of amateur women Mexican musicians. We have found that although the
relationship between women and music is tightly intertwined, it is also difficult to
decipher, as there are contradictory or ambiguous discourses present in articles and
stories as well as in the scores themselves and in the images that grace their covers.
We are in agreement with what Richard Leppert has found in the nineteenth century
Victorian world, that:
the semiotics of music, ... became radically unstable, especially, when music was
employed to establish and legitimate several crucial binaries on which the society
largely framed itself: man/woman, public/private, good/evil, center/periphery,
self/other. The trouble was that in binaries such as these, inevitably marked positive
and negative, music’s place could not be guaranteed.100
In the Mexican case, we have found that among the musical opposites and
binaries there was almost always some kind of gender component, and that women
participated in these binaries and found ways to negotiate them. As Matthew Head
has pointed out, they did so by playing music written for them, mostly by men to
Brooks, ‘Les collections féminines d’albums,’ 381.
Leppert, The Sight of Sound, 153.
ultimately satisfy men’s desires, in different performance contexts—in solitude or in
the company of friends where they could impress their own expressivity on the
music, or by exercising agency when leading the dance at the piano. Similarly, they
did so when they wrote their own music and, within expected genres and formats,
managed also to express their personal fantasy and artistic creativity, thus
demonstrating an acquaintance not only with compositional language, but also
exhibiting their familiarity with literary texts to use for song-setting. And they
managed to do so without openly contravening the frame of what was considered
‘womanly’ music. For music was indeed an approved space for women’s expression,
albeit one whose limits were always elusive for those trying to enforce them, one
whose discourses, coming from different—mainly male—voices trying to define the
right practice for women, were often contradictory, and one whose subversive power
was ultimately not taken too seriously so long as it remained within the domestic
realm. When we add all those musical qualities to the local pride factor, then perhaps
we can understand the difficulty, for Mexicans, of balancing the two parts of the
binary ‘Mexican woman’ at a time when there was a real need to find reasons to
revel in national production and activity.
We now turn to those Mexican musicians who were main participants of that
musical world: male and female musicians about whom, especially the latter, little
has been said so far in music histories. The next chapter contributes to expand the
knowledge of their lives and their significance in their times.
Chapter 3
Women Musicians and their Teachers in Independent Mexico
Chords, cadences, counterpoint, harmony, composition, musical notes
and solfeggio—all these elements present abundant subject matter
for both the education and the diversion of our young Mexican
ladies, who happily and meticulously dedicate their spare time to the
considerable tasks associated with the magical art of music.
El Mosaico Mexicano (1840)1 (3.1, p. 310)
In the spaces left by the disappearance of the Spanish monopolies and the shrinking
power of the Church over the musical Mexican world, men and women musicians
actively participated in forging Mexico’s musical new outlook. These individuals,
whose love and dedication to music was a driving force in their lives, began music
enterprises including publishing businesses and schools, wrote manuals and
compositions, expanded their teaching activities, sought and found new performing
opportunities. Some of these opportunities were pre-existing gaps; others, notably for
women, meant that pioneering teachers had to carve out new paths in order to help
them achieve professional status. Their belief in the importance of education and
their steadfast efforts within the schools they founded to bring young men and
women closer to a solid music training in theoretical and practical areas was a crucial
step in the construction of a secular musical education in the first half of the
nineteenth century in Mexico, not least as an element of identity formation for the
younger generations. Mariano Elízaga, José Antonio Gómez and Agustín Caballero
are, in their own right, indispensable elements to understand the formation of that
first group of post-independence Mexican musicians who, in their turn, made the
project of the public music education of later decades feasible.
Mariano Elízaga
One of the pioneers in local musical printing and a driving musical force in early
independent Mexico was Mariano Elízaga (1786-1842). Originally a Church
musician, he was a recognised Mexican composer, teacher, theorist and later a music
L. G., ‘Música,’ El Mosaico Mexicano (1840) III, 366.
publisher. In 1823, Elízaga gave a bleak diagnosis of the Mexican musical situation
but was optimistic regarding its potential. He declared that:
We possess the right disposition to reproduce in America the Jomelis [Nicolo
Jomelli (1714-74)], the Tartinis, the Ducecs [Jan Ladislav Dussek 1760-1812] and
the Aydms [sic for Haydn], and many others who have been the admiration of Italy
and the other states of Europe[.We have]: the sweetness of weather, the national
character, the flexibility of language, all which present the most happy advantages so
that music would not lie in the unfortunate abandonment where it is today in all
areas: a capella singing, chamber or theatre music.2 (3.2, p. 310)
According to Elízaga: ‘In order to overcome so many obstacles opposed to the
prosperity of the arts in America, an avidity of knowledge and an extraordinary effort
is needed: [one requires as musician] to expose oneself to the reversals of fortune, to
beg for knowledge here and there and to confront all kinds of disadvantages’.3 The
lack of support for musicians was coupled with a want of artistic education.
Elízaga faced hardship and consciously and concretely contributed to the
construction of the musical world of independent Mexico. In 1823, the musician
published his own music manual, Elementos de música ordenados por Don Mariano
Elízaga, [Music elements as arranged by Don Mariano Elízaga] where he offered to
put the basic knowledge of music theory within the reach of professional musicians
and music lovers alike. He also published his Principios de la armonía y de la
melodía, o sea fundamentos de la composición musical [Principles of harmony and
of melody, that is, the basis of musical composition] and he founded the first
Philharmonic Society in 1824, which taught music and organised concerts. The
Philharmonic Society held subscription concerts, a new practice in the country.
Elízaga’s tenacity was expanded to a publishing business, also run by subscription,
which he carried out from his own house.4
In the prospectus of Elízaga’s publishing enterprise published in the
newspaper Águila Mexicana, there is a clear emphasis on the ‘Mexicanness’ of the
project. Elízaga specifically addresses the Mexican citizens and he not only
underscores the high quality of the music to be printed but also emphasizes the fact
Elementos de música ordenados por Don Mariano Elízaga [1823]. Quoted in Gabriel Saldívar,
Bibliografía Mexicana de Musicología y Musicografía (Mexico: INBA/Cenidim, 1991), 129.
Elementos de música, 129.
El Águila Mexicana, 2 Feb. and 3 Mar.1826. See also Jesús C. Romero, José Mariano Elízaga
(Mexico: Ediciones del Palacio de Bellas Artes, 1934) and the prologue by Ricardo Miranda to the
facsimile of Mariano Elízaga’s Últimas variaciones (Mexico: INBA/Cenidim, 1994).
that, in the first mailing, ‘everything is Mexican’: the composition—six waltzes for
guitar by Elízaga himself—, the press and the paper.5 Elízaga and his business
partner Manuel Rionda stated that ‘this printing shop is the only [such] establishment
in the republic and the first of its class’. Although hyperbolic, there is truth to this
claim. According to John Koegel, several factors meant that music printing, from the
sixteenth century to independence, was almost nonexistent: ‘the cost of engraving
and printing music, the constant dissemination of music copied by hand, the
commercial and printing regulations Spain held over its American colonies and the
availability of printed music from Spain and Europe through the Spanish
intermediaries’.6 As a matter of fact, most of the printed music consumed by
professionals and amateurs at the time came from European printing-shops and was
merely sold by Mexican merchants. Thus Elízaga and Rionda centred their hopes of
success in the patriotic pride they were confident to raise by establishing a local
music print shop where music by Mexicans would take precedence. The editors
emphasized the improved quality of their sheet-music’s appearance in their offer of
‘greater neatness, clarity and accuracy in the execution’, together with a reasonable
price.7 In terms of repertoire, Elízaga was not only educating his public by selling
music by Mexican authors but also in other ways, such as expanding his domestic
music beyond that for piano and voice. The editors found it necessary ‘to warn’ the
public of this fact: ‘to avoid monotony […] we will not provide vocal music in every
delivery’.8 In addition to the much-loved duets, arias, cavatinas and the like, he
promised music for piano, guitar and flute with accompaniment as well. Elizaga’s
ventures were a first step in widening the spectrum of scoring for home consumption
and improving the quality of editions, while participating in the gradual process of
secularization and the promotion of music by local composers. In his footsteps
followed one of the greatest Mexican musicians of the time, José Antonio Gómez.
Although before risking publishing his piece, Elízaga tested the market with a ‘Waltz’ by Rossini.
Once he saw the reception was favourable, he published these pieces. Águila Mexicana, 2 Feb. and 3
Mar. 1826.
John Koegel, ‘Nuevas fuentes musicales para danza, teatro y salón de la Nueva España,’ Heterofonía
116-117 (1997), 25.
El Águila Mexicana, 2 Feb. 1826. In that same year lithographic press was introduced in Mexico by
Italian Claudio Linatti. After that the quality of publications in the country significantly improved.
El Águila Mexicana, 2 Mar. 1826.
José Antonio Gómez
In Chapter Two we looked briefly at José Antonio Gómez’s relation to women’s
education. It is useful now to expand upon his extraordinary and multifaceted
trajectory in the Mexican musical world of the time. Music historians have
overlooked his importance. Since his first biography appeared in 1884, only a few
minor variations or additions have been added to what we know about him.9 Gómez
was stereotyped as a third-rate composer, not especially worthy of study owing to the
derivative Italianate nature of his compositions. Like the music he loved and
composed, he did not find a place in the Mexican canon of great musicians, and as
will become clear that of Goméz fell between various cracks.10 Yet in many ways, he
was ahead of his times and this is especially notable for his interest in music
education, particularly concerning women, where he contributed by founding a
school and teaching a large number of pupils, together with his publications of music
including pedagogical manuals and compositions.
José Antonio Gómez y Olguín (1805-1876) found new ways of moving
about, musically speaking, between Mexico’s miscellaneous musical circles, between
the private and the public, the sacred and the profane and between European and
Mexican music. We think that his life and work represent a unique lens through
which to look at the disparate elements that constitute urban music life in Mexico
City and to better understand the vitality of music in private and public settings and
the interaction of these spaces in which Gómez proved to be a key pioneer. It is of
especial interest to note his interest in music education and the ease with which he
assigned women a leading position in music.
Gómez served as Mexico City’s Cathedral organist for over forty years
(1824-1865),11 a position that offered him not only prestige, but also a thorough
John Lazos’ recent PhD thesis on Gómez’s religious music and his trajectory within Mexico City
cathedral is a great first step towards rescuing Gómez from oblivion. While Lazos concentrates on
Gómez’s work at the Cathedral, I devote this section to his secular, educational, activity. John Lazos,
‘José Antonio Gómez’s Ynvitatorio, Himno y 8 Responsorios: Historical Context and Music Analysis
of a Manuscript,’ PhD diss. (Université de Montréal, 2009). Other sources consulted were Francisco
Sosa, Biografías de mexicanos distinguidos (Mexico: Oficina Tipográfica de la Secretaría de
Fomento, 1884), and Hugo De Grial, Músicos mexicanos (Mexico: Diana, 1978), as well as
contemporary biographies recorded later in this section.
Lazos, ‘José Antonio Gómez’s Ynvitatorio,’ 27-30.
First as ‘third organist’ and in 1835 as ‘first organist.’
grounding in the art of composition. Although most of his religious works are almost
completely forgotten today, during his lifetime they offered him both status and
distinction.12 For his work in the cathedral, Gómez was well-known; as an organist,
his improvisatory talents were legendary and his compositions were popular with the
Mexican public. According to John Lazos, his Miserere (1832) was so liked that the
Ecclesiastical Chapter awarded him a gratuity of one hundred pesos and decided that
the work should replace the old Miserere.13 Beside his assignments in the cathedral,
he was able to straddle various duties as a teacher, publisher and editor, writer of
music manuals, orchestra conductor, pianist, and juror in music competitions. Owing
to his multifaceted musical talents, as well as his pride in his new nation, Gómez was
the president of the jury in charge of selecting the music for the national anthem in
1854. This honour reflects the high esteem in which he was held and constitutes a
public acknowledgement of his long musical career in Mexico.14
-El Instructor Filarmónico
El Instructor Filarmónico, Periódico Semanario Musical (1843) [The Philharmonic
Instructor, Weekly Musical Journal] was an ambitious project principally aimed at
teaching young women music, the didactic goal being stated in its title.15 Gómez felt
that music education had not received enough attention, despite the high level of
interest music raised in citizens all over the country. The journal not only provided
self-taught music lessons but also included the publication of musical scores, and
tutorials for music teachers. Another obvious reason for publishing the Instructor,
though not explicitly stated by the composer, was to disseminate his own music. In
fact, the publication served as an outlet for Gómez’s original compositions and
The year 1838 marked the Ecclesiastical Chapter determines to terminate the position of ‘chapel
master’ in Mexico City’s cathedral. The impact this decision had on Gómez was significant: he now
also conducts the orchestra conductor in addition to his appointment as organist. Lazos, ‘José Antonio
Gómez’s Ynvitatorio,’ 72-73.
Ibid., 71. We do not know who was the author of the previous Miserere used during services.
Gómez’s work became so popular that an author writing in 1965 recalled having heard it over a
century later during special occasions at the Cathedral. De Grial, Músicos mexicanos, 12.
The other two members were younger but also prestigious professional musicians: Agustín Balderas
and Tomás León. Molina Álvarez, Daniel and Karl Bellinghausen, Más si osare un extraño
enemigo….CL aniversario del Himno Nacional Mexicano. Antología conmemorativa. 1854-2004
(Mexico: Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México/Editorial Océano, 2004), 60.
Instructor Filarmónico. Nuevo Método para Piano. Simplificado y Extractado por José Antonio
Gómez y Socios (Mexico: Litografía de Amado Santa Cruz y de Francisco Cabrera, [1843]), and,
Instructor Filarmónico, Periódico Semanario Musical. Dirigido por José Antonio Gómez y Socios
(Mexico: propiedad de los editores, 1843).
arrangements, as well as promotion for other Mexican colleagues such as Luis Baca
or his son Alejandro.16 Gómez sustained his enterprise by selling subscriptions, as
did many publishers of the time. He started publishing in the early 1830s and went
on for two decades.17
When promoting El Instructor Filarmónico in the press, Gómez specified that
‘painting, sculpture and music, which since time immemorial have been the delight
of civilised people, and that at different moments played an active role in public
morals’ are essential for the modernization of Mexican society. He felt, however, that
among the other fine arts music had been neglected and that it was time to rectify the
situation.18 Part of the problem lay in ensuring that music education reached beyond
the major cities. Here Gómez combined a keen advertising strategy with his firm
belief that music had to be extended to the remote corners of the country, in order to
sustain the moral artistic education he so cherished. Gómez had three distribution
points in the capital and delivered his publications elsewhere by contracting with
local distributors.19
Other publications such as El Mosaico Mexicano, edited by Ignacio Cumplido
and where Gómez published a musical piece, also aimed to expand the Mexicans’
musical universe. The journal significantly announced not only the fact they were
ready to publish ‘modern’ compositions of merit, as judged by the specialists, but
also that their printing characters would ensure high quality. This fact signals the
newly acquired importance that layout and design had for sheet- music consumers.
Prospecto y Reglamento de la Gran Sociedad Filarmónica y Conservatorio Mexicano de Ciencias y
Bellas Artes, dirigida por José Antonio Gómez (Mexico: Imprenta del Iris, 1839).
In the 1850s, after Gómez’s publishing impetus had faded, two music publishing houses, created by
German immigrants, Enrique (Heinrich) Nagel and the Levien brothers, continued to exploit the
market successfully. Nagel opened his Mexico City store in 1849 selling instruments and sheet music,
and soon branched out into the printing business. His house survived until 1921 when its assets were
sold to Wagner & Levien. August Wagner and Wilhelm Levien, who collaborated to establish a music
store in 1851 in Mexico City, eventually successfully expanded their business to several Mexican
towns. It took them some time to become established in Mexico and to compete with the few
established Mexican firms such as Murguía or Rivera and son, but with the Mexican Second Empire
of Maximilian of Habsburg (1863-1867), Wagner & Levien became the most productive and
influential music publishing and selling business in the country. Once established, they remained wellentrenched and survived well into the twentieth century See Gabriel Pareyón, Diccionario
Enciclopédico de Música en México, 2 vols. (Mexico: Universidad Panamericana, 2007); about
Nagel: II, 723; about Wagner y Levien: II, 1103-6.
‘Prospecto de un periódico musical titulado El Instructor Filarmónico dirigido por José Antonio
Gómez y socios,’ El Siglo XIX, 7 Oct. 1842.
The improvement will also consist in the possible insertion [in the journal] of some
modern pieces of music, for clave20or guitar given that the Mosaico print shop owns
some very good printing characters in this field. Thus the new compositions, if their
merit in terms of the judgment by intelligent people holds, will be covered by the
journal. If they are singable, verses will be added, in order to spread the good taste
for one or another genre as widely as possible.21 (3.3, p. 311)
If in Europe every respectable, or not so respectable, piano teacher was publishing a
piano ‘method’, there was no reason why Gómez should not issue his own.22 He
claimed that his ‘new’ piano-learning manual took the best ‘from several authors’
and condensed it for the use of the Mexican population. Without specifying whose
methods he was using, he mentioned Thalberg, Döhler, Liszt and Henri Bertini as
outstanding contemporary pianists.23 Furthermore, and as I shall discuss presently,
Gómez had his own ideas about how best to tackle the specific needs of the Mexican
musical community, drawn from his unique strengths as a local composer, organist
and music educator. As to his intended audience: there are no surprises here. The
Instructor’s frontispiece shows an elegant gentleman instructing a young lady,
presumably through Gómez’s own manual. Women of the upper classes, the only
ones who would be musically literate, were his main addressees.
The word clave during the eighteenth and first decades of the nineteenth century meant diverse
instruments with keys including harpsichord, fortepiano and piano.
El Mosaico Mexicano (1840), III, 4. Mariano Elízaga was a pioneer in his preoccupation of printing
neat and beautiful sheet-music for Mexican consumption, as we shall see in Chapter Three.
From C. P. E. Bach on, according to Arthur Loesser, Men, Women and Pianos. A Social History,
with a new foreword by Edward Rothstein and a preface by Jacques Barzun (New York: Dover
Publications, 1990), 381. This practice was also common in Europe; for instance, Fétis and Moscheles
published a Méthode des méthodes based on the best authors to date. Méthode des méthodes de piano,
ou Traité de l'art de jouer de cet instrument basé sur l'analyse des meilleurs ouvrages qui ont été faits
à ce sujet... par F.-J. Fétis…et J. Moscheles (Paris: M. Schlesinger, 1840). The Fétis/Moscheles
method was published only three years before Gómez’s own, which is an indicator of his ability to
keep abreast of professional developments.
Henri Jerôme Bertini (1798-1876), born in London but raised in Paris, was a virtuoso pianist who
studied with Muzio Clementi. On 20 April 1828, Bertini gave a concert with Franz Liszt in the Salons
Pape where they played, among other works, a transcription by Bertini of Beethoven's Seventh
Symphony for eight hands (the other pianists were Sowinsky and Schunke). He was widely known as
concert pianist and especially well-known as teacher, which is perhaps the reason Gómez mentions
him. We can infer that Gómez had access to Bertini’s piano methods; the best known is Le Rudiment
du pianiste, op. 84 (Chez les fils de B. Schott, 1830) but he also composed hundreds of piano studies.
Accessed 18 09 2011 <>
Figure 22. José Antonio Gómez, Instructor Filarmónico. Nuevo método para piano
(Mexico, 1843) Front page
The Instructor included a piano method and a collection of piano and piano
and vocal scores. The piano method was a veritable ‘do-it-yourself’ treatise that
Gómez delivered by subscription in 32 instalments. The method was subdivided into
two parts that provided what Gómez considered to be all the basic elements of
musical art. The first part of Part One includes an explanation of the rudiments of
music and clarified elementary aspects of piano playing, including posture. It
contains keys, scales, major and minor modes, note values, key signatures,
adornments, slurs, Italian names of movements and their significance. The second
part of Part One consists of a method for piano accompaniment, and examines in
depth the notions studied in the first. It includes figured bass, modulations and
transitions, the fifths circle, and harmony on the piano, including how to modulate.
Eight practical exercises are included for the student to practise these concepts. Part
Two is devoted to composition, beginning with harmony and analysis, then
counterpoint and finally composition. This last part was aimed at high-level amateurs
but was probably also useful for semi-professional and professional musicians. This
ambitious publication by Gómez is a sort of musical vademecum for the midnineteenth-century Mexican musician.
In the two music volumes that Gómez published in weekly instalments to
accompany the theoretical treaties, he offered a notable number of his arrangements
from Italian opera favourites by Donizetti, Bellini or Rossini as well as other popular
pieces by fashionable contemporary European composers of the time, such as Henri
Bertini, Philippe Musard, Henri Herz, and William Vincent Wallace. As for Gómez’s
own compositions and arrangements, these range from easy to medium levels of
difficulty. His periodical advertisements promised pieces for the usual solo piano or
piano and voice, although in fact he also issued pieces for piano and flute, and piano
and guitar. Furthermore, Gómez included his own arrangements of arias by Bellini,
Donizetti, Manuel García and Saverio Mercadante (See Tables IV, p. 291 and V, p.
294).While his treatise might suggest a rather academic approach to piano-playing,
his connection with opera was strong.24 One of the early stories in the mythology of
Gómez, which confirms his early involvement with opera, was that of his
participation, at the age of 22, as director of Manuel García’s orchstra when he
visited Mexico in 1826.25 According to the story, Gómez was able to read fluently at
sight from a poor copy of the orchestral score of El Amante Astuto, whereupon
García immediately decided he was the right man to conduct the orchestra.26
Gomez’s own idol was Vincenzo Bellini, to whom he pays tribute in a front-matter
illustration to the repertoire albums of the Instructor Filarmónico: Bellini’s bust is
surrounded by numerous ribbons listing the Swan of Catania’s main operas.
Figure 23. Instructor Filarmónico. Periódico Semanario Musical,
First volume of musical pieces.
Second page (unnumbered) (Mexico, 1843)
Gómez’s arrangements of well-known arias not only demonstrate his
knowledge of Italian opera, but also his talent as transcriber in appealing and suitable
formats for conveying his didactic ideas to a domestic public. These hinged on his
belief that beginning students should have access to an attractive repertoire, in order
John Lazos, José Antonio Gómez’s Ynvitatorio, 129.
A full account of the Spanish tenor’s tour in the country is provided in Chapter Four.
Gerónimo Baqueiro Fóster, Historia de la música, III. La música en el periodo independiente
(Mexico: Secretaría de Educación Pública/Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes/Departamento de
Música/Sección de Investigaciones Científicas, 1964), 121.
for them to enjoy music making with fellow student musicians or with their teachers.
There are piano, piano and voice(s), piano, guitar and voice(s), and piano four hands
arrangements. In the second part of his piano method, Gómez already introduces a
simplified Andante extracted from Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia. Gómez knew how to
attract piano and music students in pragmatic terms by providing then with what they
knew and loved, without giving up on the idea of teaching them the foundations of
music. His enterprise was perfectly in tune with Mexicans’ widespread appetite for
Italian opera.
The untiring Gómez published La Aurora. Gran miscelánea musical
redactada. [The Aurora. Large compiled musical miscellany] in 1848. The
prospectus announces the publication of ‘modern pieces’ chosen with ‘good taste for
‘those already learned’ in the musical art’.27 He claimed his main aim was to print in
Mexico European and Mexican pieces, at affordable prices. He offered, again, to
distribute his magazine in the capital and in the provinces in the offices of newspaper
El Siglo XIX. We here see, again, an alliance between Ignacio Cumplido and Gómez
in their musical affairs.
Figure 24. José Antonio Gómez, after page 52 of
El Instructor Filarmónico, vol. II.
El Siglo XIX, 17 June 1848.
-Gómez’s Mexican compositions: Wals de las gorditas de horno calientes (1840)
and Variaciones sobre el tema de jarabe mexicano (1841)
Although Gómez’s work was disseminated through his own publications, he
also made sure to promote his compositions by other means. In 1840, a particularly
interesting piece was published in El Mosaico Mexicano. It was entitled the Wals[sic]
de las gorditas de horno calientes (The Waltz of the Warm Rolls). A title full of
humour, it reflects Gómez’s remarkable gift for integrating reference to local
flavours, smells and sounds into the format of a salon piece. In this waltz Gómez
conjures up the cry of a street vendor as she offers her wares, in this case a local
brand of bread known as ‘gorditas’ or ‘stuffed (fat) ones’, still warm, fresh out of the
oven. This short piece is an early example of the integration or enclosing of a local
sound-world within a European genre in a domestic format for amateur consumption.
Gómez domesticates, i.e. gentrifies, the vendor’s cry, in order to allow its entrance
into the parlour (Example 12).
This waltz in F, tonic-bound with just a brief modulation to the subdominant,
has the classic four sections of eight bars, each one repeated, thus inviting dance. Its
first two sections recall an Italian introduction and cavatina. In the first part, the
melody played by the right hand is a descending line full of adornments, which
accelerates at the end of each descent to finish in demisemiquavers; the melody of
the second section, in semiquaver triplets, has a distinctive vocal quality to it, which
accelerates the melodic rhythm of the introduction while changing the harmonic
pace. When sung, the ascending and descending figures would have required a
certain degree of virtuosity. It is in the third section that everything changes. We
have arrived here at the subdominant instead of the more common dominant, but this
fact comes as no surprise, as the composer has been preparing it throughout the
second section where he transformed the F major of the first part into the dominant
of the new key. This section feels like a transition in more than one way from the
European world to the Mexican world: it not only introduces the new key, but also
brings in parallel sixths, which constitute a recognised, albeit ambiguous, sign of the
‘Mexican’, for these parallel progressions were typical in popular songs, Spanish or
Mexican, while also being a feature of bel canto, with its emphatic forte and dotted
rhythm. The meanings are actually complementary, for all this was the background
culture contemporary Mexicans would have recognised as their own. In addition, this
section is itself the prelude to the last part, where we finally hear the street vendor
uttering her cry: ‘Gorditas de horno calientes’, written between staves. At this point
the character of the piece radically changes to assume a simplicity that echoes that of
the vendor whose voice dominates everything else. The da capo al fine returns the
vendor to the cosmopolitan world of Italian opera where the piece started, enclosing
the Mexican sound-world within the European one.
Example 12. José Antonio Gómez, ‘Wals de las gorditas
de horno calientes’ (1840)
The whole piece can be taken as a metaphor for Mexico’s unique voice being
integrated into the Western world by means of the country’s simplest and most
authentic inhabitants, albeit via a gentrified form of musical expression. In Gómez’s
time, it showed how Mexico and Mexican composers could adapt to and adopt the
forms and sounds of European music and produce their own expression by
incorporating native voices, while at the same time respecting established musical
canons. Although the form in which Gómez achieves this is rather basic—more a
juxtaposition of elements than the creation of a new form, much in the same way that
foreign visitors composed ‘Mexican’ pieces to please the public—it nonetheless
ought to be considered a pioneer effort. An amateur lady pianist would have
recognised the sound of the street vendor’s cry from her own experience; Gómez
would surely have hoped that this familiarity pleased her and that she played the
piece with pride
A year later, in 1841, Gómez went beyond this picturesque exercise with a
longer Mexican piano piece based on the jarabe, a genre we explored in Chapter
Two. Gómez composed a set of Variaciones sobre el tema del jarabe (Variations on
a jarabe theme). It is a ‘chain jarabe’ that unites a series of sones with all the
sections repeated. This, then, is an academic elaboration of the popular jarabe
created by a music professor. An eminently danceable piece in ¾ and C Major, it
displays, as John Lazos has described it, ‘a basic tonic-dominant harmonic structure
and the brief passages of virtuosic chromatic scales passages’ and alternating
sections of four, eight or sixteen measures.28 (Example 13) In it we can hear the
zapateado—a way of swinging and dragging the feet on the floor—following the
arpeggios and scales up and down the keyboard. Or rather, the piece follows the
movement of the dancers’ feet (Example 14). There are two middle sections of a
lyrical character that contain the sones’ lyrics interwoven with the piano music.
These sections were probably recognised by the audience who might even have sung
along when they heard it. The participatory character of the piece, not only for
dancing but for singing as well, underlines the eminently sociable aspect music
playing brought into the salon.
Example 13. First six bars of José Antonio Gómez, ‘Variaciones sobre
el tema del jarabe mexicano’(1841)
Lazos, José Antonio Gómez’s Ynvitatorio, 129.
Example 14. José Antonio Gómez, ‘Variaciones sobre
el jarabe mexicano’ (1841), bars 60-66.
In John Lazos’s appreciation: ‘With a lively tempo and constant short
repeated motifs, mostly of two measures, each return demands of the performer the
opportunity to ornament. This is ornamentation in proportion with the technical
ability of the pianist, the more proficient the performer, the more demanding
Gómez’s Variaciones becomes’.29 Gómez painstakingly wrote down the irregular
rhythms and ad lib repetitions in the crystallised form of a salon piano piece of ideal
length, around four and a half minutes.30 The virtuoso imprint of the figure that we
know was an extraordinary pianist and organist is present in this piece.
-An early national musical contribution: Pieza histórica sobre la independencia
de la nación mexicana (1823?)
Many more questions than answers surround Gómez’s single openly political
musical act: the composition of a piece dedicated to ‘all the liberators of his beloved
fatherland’.31 The work follows the progress of Agustín de Iturbide, a criollo officer
of the Spanish army, who led a short-lived Mexican empire that lasted less than a
year: from 21 July 1822 to19 March 1823. Iturbide rode on the coat-tails of the
euphoria that followed the definitive declaration of independence from Spain in
August 1821. His imperial aspirations appealed to some and raised him to high levels
of popularity, which momentarily gave him the illusion of new political power and
horizons. Republican ideals, which had pushed the independence movement forward,
conspired against Iturbide’s reign and brought about his resignation and exile.
Ibid., 45-6.
In pianist Cyprien Katsaris’ recording this piece lasts 4’31’’. The length makes it ideal for salon
reunion performances. Its charming character comes out in the glowing improvisatory manner of
Katsaris, who allows us to hear a possible rendering of a piece whose score is a guide to interpretation
rather than an exact instruction.
With the exception of his 1835 Te Deum to commemorate the general Antonio López de Santa
Anna’s military victory, which took the latter to his country’s presidency.
This piece was most likely written around 1823, when Gómez was only 18
years old.32 At this point, his maternal last name, Olguín, which he dropped later in
his career, was still present. More significant is the fact that he describes himself as a
‘young American professor of music’. ‘Americans’ was the appellative the
insurgents in Spanish America conferred upon themselves to differentiate their
origins from the Spaniards; the denomination provided a sense of continental unity
against the oppressor. This piece is an early Mexican example of the battle piece
We do not know the vicissitudes of the publication of Gómez’s Pieza
histórica, which is divided into 52 small sections and whose only extant copy is
housed not in Mexico’s National Library but, ironically, in Madrid’s Real Biblioteca.
However, despite its musical simplicity, its format and ambitions are truly
remarkable. It is set for piano ‘accompanied by’ violin, flute and cello. There is
additionally a narrator’s voice to explain the historical content. The detailed narrative
of the feats of Iturbide before, during and after achieving independence, are written
between the staves, guiding the music throughout the whole piece. The main course
of the action is dictated by the written programme, which in turns complements the
musical descriptions. The composition requires short singing parts in two voices that
are occasionally simultaneous with the narration, such as the beginning of section 12,
an Andante con mucha expresión (Andante with great expression).While the narrator
says: ‘Fervorosas súplicas que en público y secreto hacían los Patriotas pidiendo
auxilios al Héroe’ (The Patriots prayed fervently in public and private, seeking the
Hero’s succour), the voices sing ‘Eterna Providencia que desde el alto cielo difundes
el consuelo a los tristes mortales…’ (Eternal Providence who from on high offers
solace to unhappy mortals…).
Lazos, José Antonio Gómez’s, 265.
In Chapter Two we examined a Mexican battle-piece from the 1860s; these and other extant pieces
prove that the genre had followers in Mexico. This is still an unexplored subject in Mexican music
Example 15. José Antonio Gómez, Pieza histórica sobre
la independencia de la nación mexicana (1823?),
beginning of section 12.
The text that precedes the introductory unmeasured section describes ‘the
diverse thoughts that came to General Iturbide’s mind before proclaiming
independence’, which despite the absence of barlines has an alla breve time
. Iturbide’s turbulent thoughts are represented first by emphatic crotchet
chords that give way to demisemiquavers and hemidemisemiquavers as following the
ramblings of a mind forced to contemplate the crucial step he is about to take not
only for himself but for a whole nation. The variations of speed mirror the dynamics
that constantly veer from p or pp to ff, with hairpins marking crescendos and
Example 16. José Antonio Gómez, ‘Pieza histórica sobre la
independencia de la nación mexicana,’ first section.
The work offers a musical attempt to describe the succession of frantic
military movements and skirmishes between loyalists and troops seeking
independence from the Spanish Crown. Gómez uses the spoken word as an extra
element, in order to clarify and describe the ups and downs of the battles General
Iturbide participated in and led around the country. The sporadic interventions of
individual voices complement this original suite of war pieces where this fledgling
composer, inflamed with patriotism, found a theme to express his still inexperienced
talent. In any event, Gómez tried to circulate the piece again at the end of 1843, but
apparently only a part of it saw the light. It is likely that once more the piece’s
unfortunate timing played adversely against its publication.34
This early piece is consistent with Gómez’s life-long interest in the sounds of
his country and his attempts to give them a recognisable form as concert music
whether for home or concert consumption. Reading it from a contemporary
viewpoint, these pioneer attempts clearly indicate the direction Gómez wished
Mexican music to follow: to build on European models, in order to construct a
national sound. In these, as in later pieces, Gómez’s own ideas and musical
personality were embodied in previously established forms such as the waltz or the
battle piece. His quest to arrive at his own voice as a composer drew upon the
ingredients at his disposal as well as his personal likings and interests: Italian opera,
in particular, and the search for a Mexican sound. His exploration went hand in hand
with his multi-tasking in publishing, playing and teaching.
To describe Mexico’s nationalistic movement in the early twentieth century,
we can adapt Melanie Plesch’s notions regarding nationalist academic music in
Argentina. In her view, the Argentinian nationalist academic music movement
constructed ‘a rhetoric-conceptual system in which references to criollo music
constituted a topic net’ which, for an urban inhabitant, brought back ‘a certain rural
imaginary’ that was part of a national essence.35 However, that movement took place
more than half a century later in Mexico. Gómez, had as yet no intent or desire to
‘dress up’ the melodies, like later paradigmatic Mexican nationalist composer
There are two versions of this piece. One of 1823, which we use here, and the one that was
published by subscription between 1843 and 1844, but which perhaps Gómez did not finish
publishing. There is no library with a full collection of the 1843-4 publication. I thank John Lazos for
providing me a digital copy of the 1823 edition. The score lacks the violin, flute and cello parts. The
original is located in the Real Biblioteca in Madrid.
Melanie Plesch, ‘La música en la construcción de la identidad cultural argentina: el topos de la
guitarra en la producción del primer nacionalismo,’ Revista Argentina de Musicología I (1995): 61.
Manuel M. Ponce. Rather, he revels in their straightforwardness and simplicity.
There was not yet the ideological weight in Gómez’s patriotic rather than
nationalistic endeavours. In many ways, Gómez’s own musical career and
development mirrored his nation’s initial search for definition and identity as well as
a broader insertion onto the world’s stage.
-Gómez’s educational enterprise and students
As mentioned earlier, Gómez devoted an important part of his professional life to
teaching. One of his most famous students, Melesio Morales (1838-1908), referred to
his teacher as ‘el maestro de los maestros’ (‘the professor of professors’ or perhaps
‘the master of masters’), a title that stuck. In 1839, Gómez published a prospectus for
a co-educational school named the Conservatorio Mexicano de Ciencias y Bellas
Artes [Mexican Conservatory of Science and Fine Arts]. His justification for the
project reveals his conviction that music was already an essential civilising force in
Throughout this capital city a liking for music has spread with surprising speed,
whereby taste has reached a level of refinement that proves admirable: the grand
concerts and operas by amateurs that have been presented to the public are testimony
to my assessment. Amidst the civil strife that has torn deeply into the very entrails of
our fatherland, Providence has brought us an art form in progress that is capable of
appeasing the character of nations and individuals.36 (3.4, p. 311)
Gómez acknowledged the value of private music lessons but emphatically defended
public education, which furnished students with necessary ensemble playing and
frequent public presentations, which private education hardly ever did. In his school
were taught all the instruments commonly played at the time, together with sol-fa,
voice training, plainchant, accompaniment and composition. Furthermore, his
Conservatory offered Spanish grammar, geography, writing and languages (English
and French), among other subjects.37 The emphasis Gómez placed upon the
professional study of music for girls and young women is notable, to the point that in
his Conservatory programmes they acquired similar musical expertise to the boys.
Prospecto y Reglamento, 3.
Ibid., 4-5. The establishment of Gómez’s school was financed through a Philharmonic Society and
bi-weekly concerts or balls and membership fees. Lazos, Ynvitatorio, 80.
The charge for being a student at his Conservatory was eight pesos monthly and that
for being a member of the Philharmonic Society that supported the Conservatory,
and with rights of attending the concerts, was five pesos a month.
Gomez’s own musical education handbooks were used at his institution,
which opened only in 1843. They consisted of his Gramática Razonada Musical
[Reasoned Musical Grammar] (1832) and El Inspirador Permanente. Método de
Música Vocal [The Permanent Inspirer. Vocal Music Method] (1844) (Figure 26).
The Reasoned Musical Grammar was one of Gómez first educational publications. It
takes the form of a dialogue between the ‘Master’ and the ‘Disciple’ and is
specifically aimed at ‘beginners’. Gómez uses this classical educational format to
explain the basics of music theory. In a Socratic fashion, or perhaps more like a
catechism, the Master asks and the Disciple replies. Catechisms were a highly
popular method for teaching the Catholic religion to Indians during the Spanish
dominion, but, as Eugenia Roldán Vera has demonstrated, they were also a
fashionable genre used more generally in education in nineteenth-century Spanish
America. Catechisms were in part popularised by Rudolph Ackerman who in the
1820s translated and published nearly 100 didactic catechisms on secular matters of
arts, science and politics, translated from English with the aid of Spanish-American
and Spanish exiles established in London.38 It is not unlikely that Gómez knew these
models. Gramática Razonada is illustrated by drop-down tables, including a chart of
major and minor modes, a table of musical values and their equivalences, time
signatures, tones, intervals, chords, and modulations. The tenor of the manual is
dryly didactic and its size portable, with 87 pages and 9 plates.39
Eugenia Roldán Vera, ‘Reading in Questions and Answers: The Catechism as an Educational Genre
in Early Independent Spanish America,’ Book History 4 (2001), 17-48
According to Lazos this manual was still being used in Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth
century. Lazos, Ynvitatorio, 82.
Figure 25. José Antonio Gómez, Gramática Razonada Musical (1832), p. 3.
Over a decade after his Musical Grammar, Gómez published a specialized
singing method, The Permanent Inspirer, which was sold in weekly instalments and
featured guitar accompaniments as well as those for piano. In this case, Gómez
himself explains the convenience of having the guitar as well, because ‘it might suit
different circumstances.’ Gómez was interested that his publications reach the widest
public and he knew that guitars were present in homes of lower classes where a piano
was not affordable. As options for the singer, he set the lyrics in Italian and Spanish,
not as mere translations but set to the music. Here too, he was probably thinking on
those with less education and without Italian language skills.
The manual starts with a brief review of the foundations of music, and
immediately gives away Gómez’s main interest: the voice. He describes the position
of the body, throat, teeth and lips, and finishes this section with breathing technique.
It is a man in this case, probably the instructor, who exemplifies the proper standing
position when singing (Figure 26).
Figure 26. José Antonio Gómez, El Inspirador Permanente.
Método de música vocal (1844), p.8.
Although presented as a self-help book, the manual is hardly of use for a
beginner singer; it was probably thought of as an aid to accompany singing lessons.
Here too Gómez provides the music rudiments: the note-names, clefs, keys, tempo
indications, note values and expression marks. And then proceeds with the singing
part, where he interspersed exercises with explanations. Gómez includes a guide to
performing appoggiaturas and ornamenting melodies, as in the following example:
Example 17. Gómez, El Inspirador Permanente, pp. 25-6
The manual ends with singing exercises by Marco Bordogni, an Italian tenor
and singing teacher who composed many sets of vocalises, popular during the
nineteenth century and still used today in their original vocal form and in
transcriptions for other instruments. Gómez claims he based his exercises on the
Bordogni’s vocalises in order to teach students how to read in bass, treble, tenor and
alto clefs as well as other C clefs. In his manual, Gómez demonstrates his expertise
and familiarity with bel canto singing methods and techniques. Since Gómez was
almost simultaneously publishing El Instructor Filarmónico, he could not only
benefit from a rounded business profile for himself, but also bring benefits to his
students, who could complement this singing method with actual Italian operatic
repertoire stemming from the most fashionable Italian composers.
-Gómez’s prominent female students
As a result of Gómez’s belief in the educational and civilising power of music in the
new society, and his emphasis on encouraging girls and women in the music
profession, outstanding female students came out of his educational enterprise. The
Calendario de las Señoritas Megicanas, para el año bisiesto de 1840 [Mexican
Young Ladies’ Annual for the Leap Year of 1840] by Mariano Galván, published
Gómez’s biography and the biographies of two of his pupils, Doña Fernanda
Andrade, a singer, and Doña María Dorotea Losada, a pianist. The Annual opened
with a customary dedication to young Mexican ladies, which reinforced their
traditional position and desired characteristics.
To the young ladies of Mexico,
Whose virtues form the honour of their sex:
Their tenderness, man's consolation;
And their beauty, the most brilliant ornament
Of their homeland,
Mariano Galan Rivera
Offers this delicate present. (3.5, p. 311)
Apart from a calendar, the Annual included short entertaining articles on diverse
cultural and historical, scientific subjects as well as advisory articles for housewives.
Among them the three biographies were included. No sheet music or other musicrelated articles appeared. However, Galván’s shop published plenty of sheet music
and he thus he might have been interested in disseminating musical matters. The
short biographies of Andrade and Losada are valuable sources for understanding how
a musically-inclined female student was educated by local and foreign musicians and
how the day-to-day dynamics of such training could permeate a broader realm. They
demonstrate that there were spaces where women could pursue their musical
interests, which were defended by Gómez’s unusual stand on this issue.
Fernanda Andrade, born in 1815—she was only ten years younger than
Gómez—was, according to the biography—a musician worth listening to. Her
musical talents were recognized by her uncles, who from an early age oversaw her
education. Andrade began with piano lessons from José Antonio Gómez, but when
her talent for singing became apparent to her tutors she was put under the tutelage of
the Italian soprano, Carolina Pellegrini, for a few months.40 According to the
anonymous biographer, Andrade continued her studies with singer Ludovico Sirleti.
Soon ‘she succeeded in mastering the most difficult pieces of famous operas by
Rossini, Bellini, and others, singing them with piano solo or orchestra’.41 This is a
crucial reference to the fact that music in the homes was sung, on certain occasions at
least, with instrumental groups that provided the opportunity for women singers to
exercise their talents in a semi-professional manner. The text is also interesting
because it attests to the fact that the musical career of Fernanda Andrade continued
after her marriage in 1834: she still sang in private events, including some attended
by illustrious Italian singers such as Napoleona Albini or Filippo Galli, who were
said to have praised her in the highest terms.42 Nevertheless, Andrade’s comme il faut
lack of vanity is underlined via mention of her ‘mellowness and modesty. Those who
see her singing, shall certainly not detect satisfaction in her inner self, nor pride when
she reads these words’.43
The other female student of note is Doña María Dorotea Losada, who was
only sixteen when her biography was published. Her case is remarkable because she
lost her mother when she was a seventeen-month-old baby, and her father chose to
Carolina Pellegrini was the wife of Cayetano Paris, an impresario from Barcelona who settled in
Mexico and was commissioned by the Mexican government in 1831 to bring an Italian opera
company from Europe. Pellegrini premiered several Italian operas in Mexico and her long stay in the
country had an influence on Mexican singers which deserves future research. See Enrique Olavarría y
Ferrari, Reseña histórica del teatro en México 1538-1911, Vol. 1, prol. by Salvador Novo (Mexico:
Porrúa, 1961), chapters X to XIII; I found in Mexico City archives a complaint Pellegrini filed against
the company’s management for back wages: AHDF, Diversiones Públicas, File 53, 1833.
Calendario de las Señoritas Megicanas, para el año bisiesto de 1840 (Mexico: Mariano Galván,
1840), 123-124.
Ibid., 124.
Ibid., 126.
dedicate himself to educating her. He first placed his daughter in an educational
institution before withdrawing her and placing her (at age 10) under the tutelage of
José María Oviedo, a ‘disciple of the celebrated don José Antonio Gómez’. Losada
remained his student for almost four years and then began to give public
presentations in churches and private concerts. Under Gómez’s supervision, Oviedo
taught her accompaniment and transposition. According to the article, Gómez
provided a [figured] bass line by Arcangelo Corelli for Losada to construct the
harmonies. Here we see the practical results of Gómez’s theoretical publications,
confirming that women, such as María Dorotea, learnt contrapuntal procedures and
figured bass realisation. The fact is remarkable given that, as we have seen in
Chapter Two, women were not taught abstract knowledge such as mathematics in
schools at the time. It then come as no surprise that, as the article claims, Losada was
able to sight-read fluently and to transpose melodies into any key asked of her. The
girl had been giving public and private presentations since the age of twelve, playing
alone or as a soloist with orchestra.44 The article recounts a remarkable occasion
when Losada played ‘a most difficult concert at Gómez’s house, with an obbligato
part for two pianos and six hands’. This scenario portrays the lively musical scene of
professors and high-level students interacting in a musical feast for the delight of
others and themselves. The article finally proclaims her as nothing less than ‘the
most skilful Mexican woman musician in the art of playing piano’.45
Another fascinating reference to Losada, which is absent from the
Calendario’s biography, is the one in a keyboard work by Mariano Elízaga. The
work was published as ‘Últimas variaciones del Profesor Michoacano D. Mariano
Elízaga que compuso y consagró a la tierna memoria de la señorita Da G. G. G.
Tocadas a primera vista por la joven señorita Da. Dorotea Losada’.¨[‘The latest
variations composed by the teacher from Michoacan D. Mariano Elízaga, in beloved
memory of Miss Da G. G. G. Performed at first sight by the young Miss Da. Dorotea
Losada.’] The fact that Elízaga, a musical notability in Mexico, made none other than
the young Losada premiere his work, can be taken as an indication of the high
technical level the pianist had already reached. The piece, in the form of theme and
Ibid., 270.
Ibid., 271.
variations in a classical fashion, is of long duration and includes considerable
technical demands.46
It is to our dismay to find that no matter how thoroughly we look into the
contemporary press, we find no other reference to concerts given or musical feats
achieved by either Fernanda Andrade or María Dorotea Losada.47 Their musical
accomplishments remained in the minds of those who heard them and of the women
themselves. Their musical achievement can only be imagined through the echoes the
music rendered amidst the all too scarce pages of the Calendario de las Señoritas;
through their lovingly crafted images, their demure look and interrogating gaze face
us and beg us for at least some recognition, if not understanding, of their existence.
Figure 27. Fernanda Andrade
Calendario de las Señoritas (1840)
Figure 28. María Dorotea Losada
Calendario de las Señoritas (1840)
Besides the presumably advertising intention of Gómez in publishing these
biographies in Murguía’s annual, the musician certainly was convinced of women’s
importance, and worked towards equal musical education for them. He firmly
believed in their capabilities as musicians and rejected the commonly-held belief in
their inability to become professional. He seems to be preparing women not to be
virtuoso pianists or soloist singers but rather as high-level musicians who could earn
According to Miranda this work was probably composed between 1825-1830, when Elízaga’s
printing shop was active. Ricardo Miranda, ‘Tempo di variazioni: la música de Mariano Elízaga y su
tiempo,’ pref. to Mariano Elízaga, Ultimas variaciones para teclado (Mexico: INBA/Cenidim, 1994),
14. As stated in the Calendario, however, the ‘young lady’ was born in 1824, a fact that would push
the date of publication of the ‘Últimas variaciones’ somewhat later than that.
The only other reference I have found for Fernanda Andrade is in Guillermo Prieto, Memoria de mis
tiempos, Obras Completas I, Sepan Cuantos (Mexico: Porrúa, 2004), 229-230, were he narrates
having heard Andrade in home concerts.
a living as teachers or accompanists. This intention was practical, in that some of
these women eventually needed an income to keep their families, and music could
be, as we demonstrate in the next section, an honourable way to do it. Gómez’ aims
were not far from those in many European music schools, like the Paris
Conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music in London, the Weimar Conservatory or
the Frankfurt Hoch’sche Konservatorium, where especially in the case of women
piano students, as Katharine Ellis has indicated, the goal was to produce piano
teachers and accompanists.48
In addition, Gómez believed that music education, for men and women, was a
fundamental national value which played a role in the advancement of the country.
Spaces were just beginning to open for Mexican women to participate in a wider
musical arena than the home, Gómez’s enterprises and results offer a precious
window onto such activity.
Agustín Caballero’s musical school
Parallel to Gómez another important Mexican musician, Agustín Caballero
(1815-1886), devoted his life to teaching music to the Mexican youth. In 1838
Caballero founded a musical academy with his colleague Joaquín Beristáin (18171839). Caballero continued by himself this academy after the untimely death of
Beristáin and renamed it ‘Academia Agustín Caballero’. This academy gave special
impulse to opera singing and piano playing and produced the first generations of
professional men and women musicians after independence. Caballero’s generosity
and enthusiasm was recognised and praised by his students and the musical
community. Caballero was widowed in 1851 when his young wife Ignacia Ilizaliturri
died, as we have explained in Chapter Two, leaving a bereaved husband who perhaps
partly due to this loss became a priest some years later but continued actively
working in music and in his school.
In a letter that accompanied the program of a concert of Caballero’s Academy
that he presented as a benefit for the ‘Junta de Fomento de Artesanos de México’
[Board for the Advancement of Mexico’s Artisans], Caballero explicitly declared his
See Katharine Ellis, ‘13. The structures of musical life’ in The Cambridge History of Nineteenth
Century Music, ed. by Jim Samson (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 3601.
teaching principles. He wanted to make evident to everyone, he claimed, that
‘Mexicans have an aptitude for music, and that they have perseverance and
dedication’. He declared that he taught many young men and women without charge,
that he raised funds from willing people, that he conducted his classes without
enough music instruments and despite political unrests. The generation of musicians
who founded the National Conservatory in 1866, of which Caballero was the first
director, was educated in his academy.
Gómez and Caballero were founding presences of Mexico’s nineteenthcentury musical life. Both believed in the value of an extended musical education in
national formation. While Gómez retired to a private life relatively early, although he
continued to be influential as writer and publisher, Caballero continued in teaching
throughout his life and attracted acclaim.
Mexican women singers in the theatre
While performing in amateur settings was not only an accepted but also a
commendable pursuit for upper-class women, singing or playing in the theatre was
not. Taking the next step to a professional life meant abandoning the female roles of
daughter, wife and mother in their accepted and acceptable forms. In addition, the
idea that for a woman to participate in a public performance equalled the practice of
loose morals was as long-standing as it was generalised. Since colonial times,
Mexican women had been outstanding participants in music as amateurs in salons, as
nuns in church chapels and as semi-professionals in charitable events, but not as
professional musicians. The social condemnation associated with performing
publicly probably kept many a talented woman at home, not daring to try her luck in
the public arena. Men had none of these constraints when facing a professional
career in music. While men formed part of the private and semi-public scenarios as
well, public performance was one of the career options open to them. ‘The female
music realm was not fundamentally different from the male’—as Matthew Head has
found for eighteenth-century Germany—‘but represented a segment in a masculine
universe of possibilities’. Men were accorded a ‘mobility’ denied to women.49
Matthew Head, ‘“If the Pretty Little Hand Won’t Stretch”: Music for the Fair Sex in EighteenthCentury Germany,’ Journal of the American Musicological Society 52 (1999), 209. Men of the upper
classes, however, hardly took music as a professional option; despite being a recognised and
honourable trade, was mainly in the hands of working classes.
There was no easy step from private to public, amateur to professional, for
women performers during the first half of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, there
were women who, against all odds, did become professional musicians in Mexico.
Women secured contracted, paid work over a significant period of time and despite
inequalities and occasional breakages of contracts, they were professional. They
could share their views in the newspapers, something difficult for a woman to do at a
time. The world of Italian opera opened up new places for women on stage. Women
singers of well-to-do families, from an amateur background, were the first to venture
on theatre stages. Mexican women singers on stage became national representatives
and standard-bearers of national pride of sorts, whom men felt they ought to endorse
and, if needed, to defend from foreign mistreatment, as we shall see. Although there
was a patriotic pride taken in talented male musicians, with women the national
factor was a constant element that was brought up in relation to their performances
and it was a factor that helped women overcome moral prejudices and to pursue
careers. Their artistic trajectories, filled with obstacles, were linked to that of the
struggling country; and, implicitly and metaphorically, the idea of supporting their
careers, as long as they stayed within unwritten patriarchal rules, became equated to
that of helping sustain and define a still unsteady homeland. According to
contemporary testimonies, Mexican professional women were not divas, and their
treatment differed sharply from that bestowed on visiting foreign singers. Moreover,
and perhaps because of their exceptional nature, the careers of Mexican women were
treated in a patronising tone that ensured that whatever the praise heaped on them
they were to remain within the confinements of this specific patriotic frame.
-María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío and María de Jesús Mosqueira
One of the few professional women musicians who appears with certain frequency in
contemporary Mexican sources is María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío (1823-1856).50 She
Her name is spelled Cepeda or Zepeda. Later in her career, the Cepeda seems to fade and she
becomes only Cosío. There is little written on her after her lifetime: Wright de Kleinhans, Mujeres
Notables Mexicanas, Mujeres notables mexicanas (Mexico: Tip. Económica, 1910); the entry ‘Zepeda
y Cosío, María de Jesús’; in Pareyón, Diccionario Enciclopédico, 1128; a couple of mentions in
Esperanza Pulido, La mujer mexicana en la música (Mexico: Ediciones de la Revista Bellas Artes,
1958) and short sections in Montserrat Galí Boadella, Historias del bello sexo. La introducción del
Romanticismo en México (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de
Investigaciones Estéticas, 2002), 190-191, 323-326, 389.
was a singer, and author of a few salon musical compositions for pianoforte.51 One of
her first public presentations was at the age of 17 with orchestra and choir in the Lent
religious services in Mexico City Cathedral in 1840. Her performance must have
been impressive enough to prompt the Italian contralto Adela Cesari, who at that
time was singing in Mexico with an opera company, to offer to take her as a student,
an offer she accepted.52
On 20 September 1845 Cepeda y Cosío made her official debut with the role
of Lucrezia in Lucrezia Borgia, and a few days later she sang Imogene in Il Pirata
and Beatrice in Beatrice di Tenda. At that time, the journal El Museo published a
biography of the singer which provides a clear example of how national pride and the
albeit uncomfortable presence of a professional Mexican woman singer managed to
go together and reinforce each other. Cepeda y Cosío was already a renowned singer
and author of musical compositions; the magazine proudly called her the ‘prima
donna’ of the opera company.53 We learn that before studying with Cesari, she was
trained at Agustín Caballero’s Music Academy and that after her time with Cesari
she was further tutored by the famous soprano Anaide Castellan de Giampietro.54
Cepeda y Cosío had often sung in salons and in religious performances, but her first
public professional debut surely needed additional justification; and this is where the
national factor came in.
It is always a pleasure to praise merit regardless of one’s homeland, if the pen runs
easily for those tributes and praises, of all those persons who somehow surpass in the
midst of the society in which we live and who contribute to our well-being. This is
much more satisfactory when the object of our applause unites us with the bonds that
tie us to our fatherland, and therein opens a career until now unknown. Is there then
perhaps not something of amour propre and pride in our admiration, in which we
feel like active participants of the triumph of our fellow citizens, and associate
We have traced four compositions by Cepeda y Cosío: ‘Wals de los lamentos’ for piano, published
in the Semanario de las Señoritas II (1841); ‘Valse’ for piano, dedicated ‘to my dear friend and
mentor Adela Cesari de Roca,’ published in Panorama de las Señoritas. Periódico pintoresco,
científico y literario (1842); ‘Un recuerdo de Antonia Aduna,’ a ‘prayer’ dedicated to the untimely
death of Cosío’s fellow Mexican singer, published by Murguía (1849); and, ‘La Carmelita,’ polka for
piano, dedicated to Miss Carmen Dosamantes; published by Daguerrotipo, 1 (1850). We have had
access to all these compositions except the one dedicated to Antonia Aduna, for which only a
reference seems to exist. It is worth mentioning that Cepeda y Cosío, a singer, published, as far as we
know, only pieces for solo piano.
Wright de Kleinhans, Mujeres Notables, 356. Adela Cesari had premiered Vaccai’s most successful
opera, Giuletta e Romeo, in the Teatro alla Canobbiana in Milan on 30 October 1825.
L. V., ‘La señorita Doña María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío. Prima Donna de la compañía de ópera
italiana del Teatro Nacional de México,’ El Museo Mexicano (1845), 254-257. In his Dictionary,
Gabriel Pareyón mentions Cepeda y Cosío’s début in 1842 with Anaida Castellan’s company, but I
have not been able to find any evidence on this fact.
Castellan stayed in Mexico from 1840 through 1844 with her husband Enrico Giampietro’s opera
ourselves with their glory? This is what just occurred to the Mexicans connected
with that youth whose portrait adorns the page that is at the beginning of the article.55
(3.6, p. 311)
The journal editors further complimented Cepeda y Cosío for daring to sing ‘the
sweet accents of Italian music’, despite not being born and raised in Italy. ‘She has
shown us that the sweet voice of the Mexicans can express the sad or festive,
frivolous or sentimental, passionate or raving accents of Beatrice, Lucrecia, Antonina
and Norma’. She was indeed a Mexican woman publicly stepping into European
singing territory. Furthermore, where Cepeda y Cosío’s performances are concerned,
El Museo Mexicano seems to subscribe to Gómez’s principle of extending
professional music education to women, for it advocated that women step into the
musical professional arena and not remain only in salons and churches; significantly,
it labelled as ‘darkness’ the times when professional practice was considered
‘degrading’ to women.56 The publication’s triumphant and optimistic tone heralds a
new era whose fruits were still far away for women. María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío
was a pioneer whose brief professional trajectory illustrated the uneven road ahead.
Her life story contained dramatic ingredients that made her a tragic hero in
the public’s eyes. Cepeda y Cosío’s father suffered a tragic accident that left him
incapable of working when María de Jesús was a child. As a result, her mother, Doña
Mariana, devoted herself exclusively to her daughter, including providing her voice
lessons with outstanding instructors. The article’s anonymous author constructs
Cepeda y Cosío’s career as a meteoric trajectory projected in her mother’s claim that
‘It was far from the thoughts of a loving mother that the weak girl, whose voice
consoled her hours of sadness, was growing to be Mexico’s first artist’.57
Once she started singing publicly, it is likely that she began bringing money
to the impoverished home; economic need proved thus the main justification,
according to the singer, to embark on her professional career. We see not only the
announcement of her concerts but sporadically her own testimony published in the
press. On 8 December 1845, El Siglo XIX announced a benefit concert for the young
singer where she and friends would present La sonnambula. The appeal to attend,
which was more like an exhortation for the public to contribute generously to a
El Museo Mexicano (1845), 255.
Ibid., 256.
patriotic cause, was based not only on the prestigious artists who would accompany
her, Eufrasia Borghese58 and piano professor Vicente Blanco, but also, and more
emphatically, on the fact that she was a ‘distinguished fellow countrywoman’.
Mexicans’ taste for music, their appreciation of the true merit and ‘the native soil on
which Miss Cepeda’s cradle rocked’, were ‘enough to ensure her a copious public in
her benefit function’. Cepeda y Cosío herself published a declaration about singing
the role of prima donna in La sonnambula with the Italian opera company. Her tone
is rather apologetic and far from auto-celebratory. It was the loss of the family’s
wealth and the ‘disgraceful situation’ in which she found herself that impelled her to
attempt that feat. Despite admitting that it was extremely difficult for her to sing the
role, she made it clear that it was because of the reiterated insistence of friends and
support of the impresario, that she dared taking this step. Above all, she expressed
gratitude for ‘the public’s indulgence’.59 A few years later, the singer repaid in a
patriotic act the benevolence of her public: the newspaper El Monitor Republicano
reminded its readers that during the American invasion of Mexico in the War of
1847-8, Cepeda y Cosío refused to sing for the Americans, despite having received a
courteous invitation.60
In 1848, the Mexican singer went on to sing Norma, and part of I puritani and
Lucrezia Borgia in 1849. She was highly praised in an overjoyed report, filled with
national pride, for her participation in Lucrezia Borgia. Her singing, however, was
not described in terms of professional music criticism, but rather in the rhetoric used
for amateurs, and it focused on sensibilities associated with women: ‘Our
distinguished singer, Doña María de Jesús Cosío [sic] has seldom sung as well as that
night: her harmonious voice expressed the sweetest colours of tenderness that
penetrated our hearts, filling them with that indefinite pleasure produced by music’.61
Eufrasia Borghese, a renowned Italian coloratura soprano successful in Europe with her
performances of La sonnambula (Roma, 1835) and Lucia di Lammermoor (Napoli, 1838). She came
to Mexico after successful seasons in the U.S. with New York’s Palmo Opera Company, preceded by
work in Havana. See Katherine K. Preston, Opera on the Road. Traveling Opera Troupes in the
United States, 1825-60 (Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001). According to El Museo
Mexicano (1845), 232-234, Eufrasia Borghese, like Cesari and Castellan, trained Cepeda y Cosío for
the operatic stage.
El Siglo XIX, 8 Dec.1845.
El Monitor Republicano., 27 Sept. 1848.
My italics. El Siglo XIX, 12 Feb. 1849. During the first half of the nineteenth century opera singers
all over the Western world were moving audiences and producing intense feelings in them. Susan
Rutherford has pointed out that Guditta Pasta was talked about not only for her voice but for her
agency—the ‘affective power’ her voice had on her listeners. Rutherford explains they were the new
‘Romantic actors’ who based their acting on their real-life experiences. In that sense, Cosío was also
In addition, when she sang in Il pirata the following month, the chronicler picked his
words to phrase a compliment to the singer: ‘In her performance, Miss Cossio [sic]
made such an effort such that she was able to hold the interest and pleasure of the
public’.62 These words were aimed at encouraging her despite still finding ‘defects’
in her singing, and constitute a very different critical rhetoric from that used for
foreign women singers performing at the same time. For instance, her company
comrade and teacher, Eufrasia Borghese, when singing Lucia di Lammermoor, was
praised for her famous part not only for her sublime singing, but also for the
verisimilitude of her acting:
Is it possible to paint with greater veracity the enamoured delirium of the final act
when Lucia, before her brother, with the same distraction of a mental alienation, sets
her gaze and plays with the tassels of her outfit and appears to us to be herself truly
demented, not the actress who has understood the character she is playing, and that
she has studied even in its most imperceptible and delicate details? 63 (3.7, p. 311)
In similar vein, Anna Bishop, in whose company Cepeda y Cosío also sang, was the
object of several critiques in which writers delighted in her singing and took the
opportunity to display their specialized knowledge in opera. It was not Bishop’s life
and efforts that were the centre of the criticism, as in Cepeda y Cosío’s case, but her
superiority as singer. Reference to patriotism is absent and the critic’s rhetoric
invokes international standards when referring to Bishop’s performance.
Referring now to the charming Anna Bishop, what can we say about her when for
the space of three hours she has been able to take up the public’s attention, attracting
everyone’s sympathies in the act? Should we speak of the true voice of a soprano
sfogato, of such a pure and expressive voice that it seems to recall the nightingale as
well as the sweet sounds of the flute? Should we talk of the amazing ease with
which she knows how to present herself in a single performance in the guise of three
or four characters of different genres and a different school? Should we pay tribute
to her brilliant vocalization and the precision of her intonations? … Anna Bishop’s
manner of dressing is so unique, that it completely fulfils the illusion and so deeply
penetrates into the role she is performing that it is not la Bishop whom we see but
rather the very same priestess, Norma, who forgetting what she was, gives herself to
her love for Polion, or else to the genteel Linda di Chamounix, under the clothing of
a beautiful Parisian lady.64 (3.8, p. 311-2)
exercising that new Romantic acting in the display of her emotional states and in singing that ensured
that the Mexican public went through an emotional experience. However, written commentary on her
is pervaded by a patronising tone. She never reached the emotional heights described in relation to
foreign female singers.
Ibid., 17 Mar. 1849.
El Monitor Constitucional, 11 Sept. 1845, quoted in Galí Boadella, Historias del bello sexo, 341.
El Monitor Republicano, 17 July 1849.
Mexican singers were not, then, judged on the same basis as their peers: the more
lenient tone of the criticisms when referring to them, and the status of perennial
student which writers tacitly assigned to them, were occupational hazards accepted
by these pioneer professional women singers. It was the price they had to pay for
creating new spaces for women musicians.
From 1849, Cepeda y Cosío’s brief career started to decline. That August,
Bernard Ullman, Henri Herz’s pianist agent, hired her to sing as a guest in a couple
of concerts. According to the papers, during the second concert she was singing the
famous difficult cabaletta from the ‘mad scene’ in Act II of I puritani: ‘Vien diletto è
in ciel la luna’, when her voice failed. The public encouraged her to restart, which
she did without success, finally bursting into tears. The bass, Mr. Zanini, escorted her
from the stage, but the audience, applauding frantically, made her come back just to
give her a good-bye ovation.65 The paper El Siglo XIX wrote off the episode by
explaining that she had a severe sore throat. Cepeda y Cosío once again explained
herself in an open letter published the following day in El Siglo XIX. She also
avoided a professional stance when she thanked the generous public for their
‘gentlemanliness and polite protection’. She recounted having sung this cabaletta on
previous occasions to the Mexican public’s delight, but she confessed having failed
this time ‘due to my state of health, which had an impact on my throat and prevented
me from finishing it’. She concluded by thanking the audience for its indulgence.66
The newspaper El Tío Nonilla presented its version of the next episode in this
story: Herz’s agent, Bernard Ullman, dismissed Cosío after her aborted concert
without compensating her, since he considered she had broken the contract
unilaterally; he then hired another Mexican singer, Miss Mosqueira, to sing as
soloist. This substitution turned out to be permanent.67 The reporter was indignant at
Ullman for breaking Cepeda y Cosío’s contract; but he was equally so with Charles
Bochsa, the harpist and manager of the Anna Bishop’s rival tour, who was present at
the concert and who had smiled slyly at the singer’s failure. El Tío Nonilla took the
opportunity to pointedly remind Bochsa that ‘he should have been more considerate,
El Siglo XIX, 23 Aug.1849.
Ibid., 24 Aug.1849.
Cepeda y Cosío and Mosqueira had sung together before the Herz’s incident, as we will see later,
which made the latter a natural substitute to the former. Mosqueira also sang with Anna Bishop during
her tour and she had sung the role of Adalgisa in Norma early that same August. El Siglo XIX, 27
Aug. 1849.
not least because she [Cepeda y Cosío] was the daughter of a people who had so
warmly welcomed him and who had filled his pockets with money’.68 It is clear that
the writer was not only concerned about the artist, but also about the ‘daughter’ of
Mexico; this was a chivalrous and patriotic defence of the woman variable in the
equation. Moreover, in this case Cepeda y Cosío had the additional misfortune of
being caught in the crossfire of the competing tours of Herz and Bochsa.
Figure 29. María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío, El Museo Mexicano (1845)
Cepeda y Cosío’s contemporary, María de Jesús Mosqueira, also embarked
on a prolific singing career. However, although we repeatedly see her mentioned in
concert programmes for these years, we know little of her. Both singers sang together
before the arrival of Bishop, Bochsa and Herz. Mosqueira was singing in the late
1840s and 1850s. She, too, was a student at Agustín Caballero’s Academy. On 16
September 1848 professor Caballero presented his advanced students, including
Mosqueira, in the opera Lucrezia Borgia, to commemorate Mexican independence.
Mosqueira sang the main role, of whose performance the critic for El Monitor
Republicano gave a detailed and balanced commentary, much in contrast with the
patronising treatment Cepeda y Cosío had received by the press.
Miss Mosqueira in the role of Lucrezia, showed as always the enviable flexibility of
her throat which distinguishes her, and a sweetness and a feeling, perhaps slightly
dissonant with her character, but to magnificent effect. Nonetheless, her voice did
not have the extension of other occasions nor the necessary confidence at the
El Tío Nonilla, 26 Aug. 1849, I, 2.
beginning of the opera; defects that are essential to attribute to the fear such an
audience is sure to inspire. She was, as the French really call it: genée, mal a son
aise. 69 (3.9, p. 312)
When Mosqueira sang Casta Diva in an actor’s benefit the critic, from a different
paper, was positively thrilled with her singing and in the description the patriotic
element is present for he described her as ‘an artist who honours the country who
saw her birth’ and reiterates the fact that she has ‘a sweet and melodious timbre with
a great extension that moves, delights, speaking with the heart, one is led away with
passion and raises one’s soul to heaven’.70
Cepeda y Cosío and Mosqueira became natural objects of comparison.
Contrasting singers, preferably prima donnas, and choosing one over the other was a
favourite sport of the opera public and critics alike. Although this practice has been
noted in respect of foreign singers, for the first time in Mexico’s short history of
opera it was applied to two Mexicans.71 Apparently, Cepeda y Cosío and Mosqueira
began to perform together on 27 September 1848 when they sang in Norma, which
was Mexicans’ favourite opera at the time. They repeated the opera several times
over the following days. In one performance—a similar event to the one that later
took place during Herz’s visit—Cepeda y Cosío, who was singing the title role, was
unable to finish because of ill health and Mosqueira had to conclude the opera by
singing the main role albeit cutting certain arias.72 In January of the following year,
they both participated in an actress’s benefit and it was for first time they were
publicly compared in the press. Mosqueira sang an aria from Donizetti’s Betly,
probably ‘In questo semplice’, and Cepeda y Cosío apparently sang an aria from I
puritani. This time the writer politely described both different singing styles without
taking sides and, after praising them, patronisingly ended his description by advising
them to continue their studies.
El Monitor Republicano, 20 Sept. 1848. Soon thereafter Mosqueira sang the aria ‘Allor che i forti
corrono’ from Verdi’s Attila in an extraordinary concert including orchestral pieces, a comedy,
operatic arias and dance quartet. Ibid., 18 Sept. 1848. The opera was premiered at La Fenice in
Venice, only two years earlier: 17 Mar. 1846. The opera was premiered in Mexico only in December
1852. I explore the reception of Verdi’s operas in Mexico in Chapter Four.
El Universal, 6 Jan. 1849.
An episode of two foreign singers, Marietta Albini and Adela Cesari, being the object of the passion
of the Mexican amateur is explored in Chapter Four.
Ibid., 29 Sept. and 12 Oct. 1848. She went on to sing parts of this opera for which was
enthusiastically praised. On January she sang Casta Diva in a benefit function at the theatre to the
absolute delight of public and critic. El Monitor Republicano, 5 Jan. 1849.
To try to form a parallel between the Misses Mosqueira and Cosio is absurd: as the
voice of the first is sweet, soft, modulated, it is the trill of the nightingale, the
harmony of the lark, the cooing of the turtledove, while Miss Cosio’s voice is lively,
vast, clear, nervous, full of majesty; it is the genius that fills the desert with her
accent. The voice of the first charms and softens the listener, while the voice of the
second, dominates. Which of the two is the lovelier? One cannot say: both have
received a gift from the heavens which they must cultivate, and I advise them to not
abandon their studies for a moment.73 (3.10, p. 312)
Over time, however, Cepeda y Cosío’s repeated failures put her inevitably in a
weaker position compared to the presumably younger Mosqueira. When they
repeated Norma in February, the chronicler praised Cepeda y Cosío for her ‘Casta
Diva’ ‘but could not help noticing’ some instances where ‘she was a little out of
tune’; while Mosqueira, ‘as usual, shone through her neatness in performance and
her coloratura’.74 Mosqueira was invited to participate, alone, in important concerts
such as the operatic gala of 20 June 1849 that took place in the Teatro Principal in
the presence of the president of the Republic. She sang an aria from Verdi’s
Nabucodonosor, the terzetto from Ernani and the famous quartet from Donizetti’s I
puritani.75 During the rest of 1849, Mosqueira had a prominent place in Anna
Bishop’s tour, and received invariably positive criticism in the press. To the public’s
delight she repeated several times her role as Adalgisa, with Anna Bishop as Norma.
At the same time, she took the leading singing role in Herz’s performances due, as
we said, to the failing health of Cepeda y Cosío, whose name the press periodically
mentioned, lamenting the fact that she could not perform. The fame acquired during
Herz’s tour served Mosqueira to take part in performances by Adela Monplaisir
ballet’s company singing operatic arias during the entr’actes of her shows in 1850.
Yet the last we see of her is an announcement as early as 5 July 1851 that she offers
piano and singing lessons in her lodgings, near Santo Domingo no. 12, or in pupils’
homes.76 It is truly puzzling that such an ascendant career seems to have vanished
into thin air. Perhaps marriage prompted the singer to retire into a more private
sphere of action.77
Ibid., 26 Jan. 1849
Ibid., 27 Feb. 1849.
Ibid., 20 June 1849. Mosqueira also sang with a different program and the same musicians on 3
July. Musicians Eusebio Delgado and José María Aguilar organised these concerts shortly before
Herz’s and Bishop’s tours.
El Siglo XIX, 5 July 1851.
The Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Música en México by Gabriel Pareyón is the only secondary
source that provides, if only exiguous, information about María de Jesús Mosqueira. It does not
include dates of birth and death or whether she married or not.
With regard Cepeda y Cosío, despite the chagrin she suffered during Henri
Herz’s tour and the irregular quality of her performances, she managed to recover her
public presence and to form a part of Spanish guitarist Narciso Bassols’ tour in 1852,
when she sang new repertoire: a solo and duet from Verdi’s Attila.78 By the end of
that year, we read of her participation in the role of Maffio Orsini in Lucrezia Borgia,
whose performance received the typical, mixed, patronizing and critical appraisal.
Those are the last notices that appear in the press.79 María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío
died in 1856, at the young age of 31.
Another Mexican singer, contralto Eufrasia Amat, rose to fame by being hired
by Max Maretzek during his company’s Mexican tour. The fact that Amat was born a
decade later than Cepeda y Cosío made for differences between the two in their
professional development. Whereas Cepeda y Cosío was positively humiliated by
Herz’s agent Bernard Ullman, Amat, as we shall see, negotiated and joined
Maretzek’s company on a firmer footing, being supported not only by the public but
also by her own agency. In addition Amat was granted a magnificent reception in her
own right in the Gran Teatro Nacional, previously called Teatro Nacional or Teatro
Santa Anna, which Cepeda y Cosío, despite the honours conceded to hear, never
-Eufrasia Amat
Eufrasia Amat (1832-1882) was the daughter of Juana Moya, a Spaniard and of the
Mexican general Juan Amat, who perished in 1836 in the war with Texas. The
profile of a girl deprived of her father, being raised by a widow and subject to
material hardships is similar to that of Cepeda y Cosío. Amat also received singing
lessons at Agustín Caballero’s Academy in the late 1840s. In 1849, she sang an aria
from Verdi’s I Lombardi in a concert at the Academy, for which she received
positive commentaries and was named ‘The Mexican Goldfinch’. She then
participated in small productions of Lucrezia Borgia, Rossini’s Semiramide and
Mahometto, and also sang various arias in private concerts, such as the awards
Ibid., 16 June 1852.
Ibid., 16 and 20 Dec. 1852
ceremony of a women’s school, attended by the President of the Republic.80 Her
path took an altogether different turn when Max Maretzek’s opera company came to
Mexico City in 1852.
The two different versions of how Amat came to sing with Maretzek’s
company are told by the impresario himself and by the Mexican press, which
included the singer’s own testimony. Although these accounts are complementary,
their differences are telling. The one by Max Maretzek is contained in his polemical
book Revelations of an Opera Manager in 19th Century America, the majority of
which relates to the manager’s adventures in the United States, but which also
includes a short section on his tours in Mexico and Havana. In its Mexican section,
this self-aggrandising and rather conceited account is transparent regarding the way
Maretzek operated as a modern colonizer of sorts, who spent as little money as he
could while taking home vast earnings.81 His self-appointment as a civilizing envoy
and his disdain for Mexicans, whom he clearly considered inferior, is apparent. This
circumstance, if no other, should warn us against taking his words as honest truth. At
the same time, his points of view could be regarded, in their crudeness, as a kind of
counterweight to the at times partial and nationalistic perspective of nineteenthcentury Mexicans.
It was a friend of Maretzek’s, the son of ex-emperor Agustín de Iturbide, who
asked the entrepreneur to audition Amat. Maretzek acceded, not without some
resistance, and commented: ‘She was both young and good-looking; but although her
voice was a tolerable contralto, let me own that I was by no means satisfied with her
singing’.82 At the request of Iturbide, Maretzek agreed to write her a letter of
recommendation that she could use on other occasions. ‘But’, Maretzek continues,
‘while occupied the next day in writing this epistle, the idea struck me that it might
be possible to turn her vocalism to far better account for her necessities, while it
proves of no small advantage to myself.’83 He then set off to visit the mother and
El Siglo XIX, 12 Nov. 1850. As with Mosqueira, almost no information exists on Eufrasia Amat in
secondary sources. Gabriel Pareyón has one paragraph about the singer in his Diccionario
Enciclopédico, I, 61. But in this case, primary sources are richer in information.
We delve in depth into pianist and composer Henri Herz’s tour (1849-1850) in Chapter Five. His
practices are the direct antecedent of Maretzek’s tour, who was inspired by Herz’s financial success
and who had a personal rivalry with Bernard Ullman, Herz’s agent.
Max Maretzek, Revelations of an Opera Manager in 19th-Century America: Crotchets and Quavers
and Sharps and Flats [1855, 1st volume 1890, 2nd volume], with a new intro. by Charles Haywood,
Two volumes bound as one (New York: Dover, 1968), 260-1.
Ibid.: 261. Italics in the original.
daughter, and offered the latter an engagement in his company. According to the
opera manager, the mother at first resisted on moral grounds but quickly gave way
once Maretzek offered her 400 pesos. By contracting Amat, Maretzek felt reassured
for his third season, for he had perceived a growing indifference on the part of the
public at the end of the second season. He knew he was manipulating Mexicans’
patriotic feelings by engaging a local singer; for he requested that the announcements
of Amat’s integration to the company be distributed during opera intermissions ‘in a
manner sufficient to make every Mexican heart beat with patriotism’.84
In the Mexican version of this event, which can be followed in the papers, the
background to Amat’s contract is rather different. Maretzek’s casting of his operas
apparently left a great deal to be desired, with the acting sometimes being so
ridiculous as to appear parodic. For instance, critics complained that his Figaro in Il
barbiere di Siviglia (Beneventano) was ‘tedious, dull and sometimes extremely
exaggerated’; that Rosina (Bertucca), despite singing well, ‘did not grasp the spirit of
the character’, that Almaviva (Salvi) ‘participated in the general exaggeration’, and
that the choruses were inappropriately presented in modern costumes which
contrasted sharply with an Almaviva dressed ‘in the old Spanish fashion’. The fact
that Maretzek’s company lacked an alto was also a matter for comment. In this same
article, the writer was anxious about how Maria di Rohan, the next announced opera,
would turn out, and the changes Maretzek would arbitrarily make, again, using the
lack of a contralto in his company as an excuse.
It must be said that we are in a bad way, and what is worse is, that at the moment we
see no prospects for improvement. For today we see announced the Maria di Rohan,
in which the role of Armando de Gondi has been given to Mrs. Costini. This role
calls for a contralto, and it is absolutely impossible for Mrs. Costini to, even
transposed, unless significant changes are made to it.[…] We are very familiar with
the Maria di Rohan and Mr. Maretzek will not find us very indulgent with the
alteration he arbitrarily wants to make, only because a lack of a contralto. We do not
deem it impossible for him to hire Miss. Amat[…]
If this gentleman [Maretzek] does not try to fix the defects that are
increasingly becoming evident in almost every opera, he may regret it before he
arrives at the middle of his season. […] The Mexican public [...] knows how to
punish with its indifference those who misinterpret its generosity, or do not know
how to respond to it’.85 (3.11, p. 312)
In this context, the press began a veritable campaign in favour of the hiring of
Eufrasia Amat in Maretzek’s company, not only because she was a contralto, but also
Ibid.: 265.
El Universal, 5 June 1852.
because she was an excellent singer. A detailed biography of the twenty-year old
published in the papers also coincided with Maretzek’s account on one point—her
beauty—although it was much more positive in its assessment of her voice.86 She
possessed a ‘slender and delicate form’, a ‘slim waist’, ‘small feet’ and ‘beautiful
eyes’; after looking at her, the papers declared it was hard to believe that such a
delicate creature would emit such a powerful, low and rounded singing voice.87
In the end, the public and Maretzek were pleased with the hiring of Amat,
each for their own reasons. What were the reasons the singer was persuaded to take
this step in her life? Amat’s eloquent appeal was published in the newspaper El Siglo
XIX. While admitting ‘the limited nature of my talents’ regarding the gruelling career
she was about to enter, Eufrasia Amat based her decision on ‘powerful elements
without which this humble songstress could not achieve a thing’. These elements
were: the public favour and its indulgence towards her, and what she termed ‘the
benevolent disposition of all distinguished artists whom I have the pleasure of calling
my colleagues and who, in addition, are in charge of guiding my steps’. Finally, and
crucially, the more evident reason that drove Amat to this decision was the poor
economic situation of her mother and herself: ‘I have chosen a profession in which
honour and glory can be easily united with the purpose of fulfilling my filial
duties’.88 These words bring to mind again Cepeda y Cosío’s pledge. Without
doubting their sincerity, they begin to ring as a standard justification—a form of
special pleading—for women to step into the professional field. Both singers were
especially concerned to clear their names in advance for assuming the risky position
of women on stage.
The fact was that the Mexican public saluted Amat as a true heroine. The
Gran Teatro Nacional building itself was decorated to celebrate the rise of the
contralto to the position of leading artist with a foreign opera company. It was
probably the first time a Mexican woman artist had received such honours in the
theatre. All the apparatus devoted to her formed part of a ‘patriotic encouragement’,
as Maretzek was quick to note:
These promotional blurbs, as in the case of Cepeda y Cosío mentioned earlier, were needed to
refashion the amateur singers heard in salon concerts into future opera stars.
El Siglo XIX, 24 June 1852. In this regard, the description of foreign and Mexican singers where
similar: physical characteristics were often brought to fore. It was a gender rather than a local vs.
foreign matter.
Ibid., 22 July 1852.
No sooner had this announcement gone forth, than Don Augustino [sic for Agustín]
Iturbide and his friends took it upon themselves to see that a purely patriotic
encouragement was not wanting the Mexican contralto. On the evening of her debut,
military bands, playing the national hymn and other Mexican airs, were stationed
outside of the Teatro di Santa Anna [sic]. The exterior of the building was brilliantly
illuminated; while the audience-portion of the house was decorated with garlands of
flowers, and a plentiful supply of bouquets and poetry was provided.89
Eufrasia Amat sang numerous times the role of Arsace in Rossini’s Semiramide with
Max Maretzek’s company. Amat was labelled a ‘modest artist’ in a positive way, and
the critic considered that: ‘She sang perfectly, despite her timidity; [and] she was
greeted by enthusiastic applause; the public was happy and proud of the merit of
such an excellent contralto’.90 Performing the role of Arsace again a couple of
months later, the critic noted the sympathy with which she was received, but found
that ‘our respectable countrywoman’ is still prey to ‘excessive shyness’ and a ‘rather
stilted way of acting’. There is an optimistic but condescending tone in the article,
expressing confidence that she will, with time and with experience, overcome these
obstacles; but the writer admitted that at that moment these elements were weakening
the singer’s performance.91 Indeed, the question of shyness in Amat’s singing was
frequently mentioned in the press. Bashfulness was a characteristic associated with
young women in a positive way. A timid young woman was synonymous with
discretion and with an appropriate yielding to men as leaders of conversation and
business. When it came to singing with an orchestra in a large and full hall, however,
timidity was no longer a favourable feature. Young women from the upper classes
were not supposed to participate in professional artistic settings where outward
performance was required. Thus, asking Amat to leave her shyness behind and to act
in a more outgoing, confident, way when performing opera implied an enormous step
for the salon singer to take.
Facing these circumstances, Amat sang in many performances and in
different roles. She reprised Arsace on numerous occasions, and sang solo arias such
as an aria of Rossini’s Maometto in mixed concerts,92 Maffio Orsini, in the opera
Lucrezia Borgia,93 and in a concert celebrating Mexican Independence she sang an
Maretzek, 266.
El Siglo XIX, 30 July 1852.
Ibid., 10 Sept. 1852.
Ibid., 2 Aug. 1852.
Ibid., 13 Sept. 1852.
aria from Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi.94 Amat also participated alongside
Maretzek’s main cast in a performance of Rossini’s Stabat Mater, which included the
leading singers of Maretzek’s company: soprano prima donnas Balbina Steffenone
and Sidonia Costini, as well as baritones G. F. Beneventano, bass Settimo Rossi, and
tenors Giuseppe Forti, Quinto and Lorenzo Salvi. In 1854 Amat participated again
with Balbina Steffenone, now with Pedro Carbajal’s company, and sang in Lucrezia
Borgia, and as Adalgisa in Norma. Eufrasia Amat’s career fades out in the early
These Mexican women singers succeeded in publicly demonstrating their art
in ways that were previously rare in Mexican society. They were fostered to perform
publicly on a theatre stage and they were flattered for doing so; but it took resolve
and courage to accomplish it. Before doing so, they were recognised amateur singers
who sang in salons, churches, and semi-public settings and for charitable purposes
with no professional perspectives. The model of foreign women singers of preeminence, who arrived in the country and taught them, was a factor that contributed
to their decision: the example of these respected women in performance began to
have an impact on Mexicans’ perceptions and beliefs. National pride played an
additional part in the support Mexican women singers obtained.
It is hard to express a substantiated opinion on the singing capabilities and
qualities of this first generation of Mexican women singers; they were encouraged to
do their best and were not judged stringently or by professional standards. It is likely
that, though talented, they did not reach the highest performative level, for they had
not received systematic education. None of them managed an international career. It
still took more than a decade to accept women fully as professional musicians,
coinciding with the founding of the National Conservatory in 1866, which from the
beginning provided women with a rounded musical education.
In July 1866, the Conservatory of the Philharmonic Society, later renamed the
National Conservatory, opened its doors. In his inaugural speech as director, Agustín
Ibid., 16 Sept. 1852.
Gabriel Pareyón, based on an article by Gerónimo Baqueiro Fóster (‘Eufrasia Amat, notable
contralto mexicana olvidada,’ El Nacional, 31 Mar. 1957) gives 1882 as the year of her death.
Pareyón, Diccionario, I, 61.
Caballero duly gave credit to earlier music educators: ‘At this moment, let us
remember, with the appreciation they deserve, those Mexicans who before us, tried
to carry forth the thoughts which we now see accomplished: Messrs. Elízaga, D.
José Antonio Gómez, D. Joaquin Beristáin and D. Cenobio Paniagua, who have in
different epochs devoted themselves to establishing a Mexican Conservatory’.96
Although only ten years Gómez’s junior, Caballero regarded the latter as an
illustrious character from the nation’s past, inscribing Gómez into Mexico’s first
generation of music education.97 Indeed, the foundation of a National Conservatory
in 1866 can be partly seen as the successful culmination of the work of Elízaga,
Gómez and Caballero together. The new school provided the nation with a modern
springboard for professional music education, for both men and women, through
which to train new generations of native-born musicians, performers and
composers.98 By this time, José Antonio Gómez had left his post of organist in the
Mexico City Cathedral, which he had held for almost forty years, and had moved to
the city of Tulancingo, where he would spend quiet last years, isolated from the
lively musical community of the capital.99 Gómez, like many nineteenth-century
musicians, ended his life in poverty.100
A new generation of musicians, students of Gómez and Caballero, or students
of their students, were founding a modern musical Mexican education. The
establishment of a professional secular music education ran parallel to the
consolidation of the country as a nation. As we have seen, in this process, women
gradually gained entrance to the music profession through a long and uneven road.
Laureana Wright de Kleinhans, writing in 1910, still recalled María de Jesús
Cepeda y Cosío’s final years in bleak terms. Not unlike José Antonio Gómez, and
La Armonía I, 2, 15 Nov. 1866, 10.
His name was included in the list together with other famous founders of music schools: Joaquín
Beristáin, who had died in 1839 and José Mariano Elízaga, who died in 1842.
In 1854, the year he was juror for the national anthem composition, Gómez was almost named
director of a state music school, his old dream, with the support of dictator Antonio López de Santa
Anna. The project was thwarted due to political circumstances, Lazos, Gómez, 36-7.
According to John Lazos, it was a tired and unwell Gómez who presented his resignation in 1865,
and not the Church who expelled him from his life-long position at the Mexican capital’s cathedral.
Lazos, José Antonio Gómez’s Ynvitatorio,7 2. According to an article I found in the Calendario
Filarmónico para 1866. Arreglado al Meridiano de México (1865), 58, Gómez had to leave his
position in Mexico City’s cathedral due to the drastic reduction of salaries of all the cathedral’s
personnel after the confiscation of ecclesiastical goods, ‘in order to avoid falling into poverty.’
After Gómez’s death on 7 July 1876, several announcements in the press underline the difficult
situation in which the ‘numerous members of his family’ were left. Unnamed musicians raised an
appeal for a benefit concert in his honour to help the family and the Philharmonic Society convened a
meeting to this end. However I could find no further information. El Siglo XIX, 18 July 1876, El Bien
Público, 26 Aug. 1876, La Colonia Española, 28 Aug. 1876 and El Pájaro Verde, 30 Aug. 1876.
like many nineteenth-century artists, the outstanding trajectory of this singer did not
prevent for her the grim fate of dying in poverty:
There being no artistic emulation, no national companies in which to be able to
work, isolation, abandonment and poverty were the last companions of that notable
singer, whose genius was not enough even to give her the necessary (sum) to cover
the necessities of her modest existence, coming to die poor and burdened by the
greatest disdain.101 (3.12, p. 312)
The hardships of these Mexican women’s lives seem to continue for those interested
in researching their existence, for there is little documentation about them and a lack
of published biographical research. Yet these absences are also an indication of the
limited importance music history has granted these kinds of women musicians
occupying a liminal space within a still fragile professional community. The woman
who plays music was, in the first decades of the nineteenth century in Mexico, an
image that belonged largely in the house and whose stories are easier to find in
literary texts than in historical ones. Her public presence fleetingly appears when
their musical acts are invested with patriotic colours, either to defend them from
unfair treatment by abusing foreigners, or to name their artistic successes as worthy
representations of ‘the Mexican’. Nevertheless, women musicians were on stage, and
despite the hardships they did not intend to leave it. The institutionalised
exceptionalism of these women, the financial hardships that justified their enterprise,
and the playing down of professional status by these women, together with their
apologies, were progressively left behind in the following decades.
While ‘women’ and ‘piano’ constituted the dominating binary of domestic
music, ‘women’ and ‘singing’ became the entrance door to women’s professional
performances. As we have seen, the example of internationally renowned women
singers and the shelter of an opera company, together with the support of these
Mexicans in their quality as nationals, were factors that contributed to breaking down
the resistance to the presence of Mexican women musicians on professional stages. It
is to the somewhat problematic presence of women, not only as performers onstage,
but even as spectators in the theatre stalls, that we now turn our attention.
Wright de Kleinhans, Mujeres notables, 358.
Chapter 4
The Operatic World of the New Nation
Despite the many praises that can be made concerning the previous pieces,
none of these caused so much effect as the aria from Tancredo [sic]. It has
been known in Mexico for over fifteen years, and today it is so common,
so trivial, that the nursemaids sing it to children to make them sleep;
in the popular dances it is repeated, accompanied by the vihuela, in a
word: there is no young girl nor old man who doesn’t know it by heart.
El Siglo XIX, 16 July 1849 (4.1, p. 312)
My object was to carry that portion of the company which had remained faithful to
my fortunes, to Mexico, where I felt confident that it must make money.
My confidence was based on the fact that the land of the Caciques was literally
untrodden ground. In fact, Mexico was an almost purely virgin soil for Opera.
Max Maretzek, Revelations of an Opera Manager in 19th Century America, 1852
After Independence, the Mexico City elite became busy with domestic music-making
and theatre-going—particularly opera-going—with a fervour comparable to that in
large European cities. Theatres were polyvalent spaces where, in addition to
witnessing an artistic performance, and perhaps in a more significant way, men and
women of the Mexican elite mounted a parallel performance to that on the stage:
they negotiated business deals, political and personal affairs. While such activity also
characterized European opera-going of the period, this chapter demonstrates that,
within the theatrical framework, Mexicans were also debating pressing issues such as
the moral and education of youth, and questions relating to the role of citizenship and
authority in the construction of a national identity. Discussions of the changing roles
of women, as performers as well as part of an opera-going public, were important
matters complicated by these moral and patriotic questions.
Soon after independence, opera became the most popular spectacle in the
Mexican theatres. Although opera had acquired a certain popularity in previous
decades, it was foreign companies flowing into the country that brought with them
the world of European opera experience: a mostly Italian repertoire, the cult of divas,
performing practices, and ideas about how to behave in the theatre and home. As the
1849 epigraph from El Siglo XIX shows, opera could be found almost everywhere:
nannies hummed arias to babies, people sang and danced to operatic music in salons
and went to see opera companies in the theatres. Furthermore, opera was seen to play
a clear educative role indispensable to the new country plagued with crime and
lacking in moral fibre.
Europe became the natural and constant model with which Mexicans
compared their theatrical world, usually as an example to emulate. In most of Latin
America there was an idealized, generalized and stagnant image of what the great
cultural European centres were and of their standards. Unexpected forms of cultural
translation took place when the Mexican elite set these ‘European’ values as standard
prototypes of civility and good mores that were projected onto Mexican theatrical
culture. In addition, sometimes the ‘European’ model also served as a counterpoint
against which the elite could form their own, autochthonous, Mexican, dramatic
world, in ways that differentiated it from Europe. On those occasions, a patriotic
drive made differences between Mexico and ‘Europe’, a cause of pride and added
richness. Operatic repertoire, performance practices and behaviour in Mexico and
‘Europe’ were among the most compared subjects. Differences emerged in the
conclusion these comparisons rendered: while a European colonialist view, such as
the one expressed in the Max Maretzek epigraph, regarded Mexico as a land barren
of opera, native Mexicans felt the opposite was true. In fact, at least since the visit of
Manuel García in 1827, Mexicans had felt and were, despite innumerable difficulties,
deeply immersed in operatic culture, as the earlier Mexican newspaper epigraph
Regarding behaviour inside theatres there were some real differences between
Mexico City and some of the European capitals such as London or Paris, for instance
in a matter that became increasingly important: audiences falling silent during
performances. While European audiences of those cities were ever more subject to a
strong pressure to remain silent, Mexicans happily continued to chat in the theatre
throughout most of the nineteenth century. However, the repeated clauses about
attentiveness in theatre regulations, as we shall see, were a proof that this was an
issue of concern for the Mexican authorities in their role as responsible for the
education and civilisation of the Mexican audience. In this respect, the main
tendency in educational matters was to follow what was regarded, but not necessarily
followed, as civilised in the major European centres. A more pronounced difference
was the habit of smoking in the theatre, which also prevailed for the rest of the
In the reconstruction of Mexican theatrical life in the 1820s to 1850s we are
faced with the absence of theatre archives or accessible private archives with
manuscript materials. Therefore we have to rely on the extant documents at the city
archives and printed materials in newspapers, periodical publications, ephemera and
accounts by foreigners and locals of their daily life. The fragmentary images
provided by these documents register the dynamic musical life of Mexico City at the
time and reflect many issues in performance, reception, repertoire and behaviour
inside theatres that we portray here as part of a larger argument about the edification
of a civil, national society. Some of the specific questions regarding the musical
materials at hand, including the concrete adaptations of the Italian operas for the
Mexican stage, the nature of the negotiations and contracts between impresarios and
musicians, the status of the orchestra musicians, are of necessity left unanswered.
With the materials at hand, nonetheless, the musical operatic world of the 1820s to
1850s comes to life in hitherto unexplored ways while illuminating certain key areas
of conflict and change in Mexican musical culture by unpicking meanings in
Geertzian ‘webs of significance’ composed of social, political, artistic and cultural
matters.1 The picture is further elucidated by parallel European studies that provide
keys, and contrasts, to operatic matters taking place in Mexico.
This chapter begins by outlining a panorama of the operatic repertoire in the
home and the way patterns in the provision of sheet music enabled it to circulate
between theatre and home. It then illustrates the different spaces where the opera
took place, the way their inhabitants experienced opera, and how this genre became
the most popular to Mexican taste. The Mexican tour of the Spanish tenor Manuel
García in 1827-9, which sparked Mexican passion for Italian opera, is the object of a
section followed by one on how Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti took hold of the
Mexican imagination and taste in the theatre and at home. The passion of the
Mexican musical community for this bel canto repertoire shaped Mexican taste and
created a resistance, against ‘new’ repertoire such as operas by Verdi or Mozart.
Building on the Rossini-Beethoven comparison that was replicated in Mexico from
European sources, in this chapter I also propose an explanation for the irregular
entrance of German repertoire into Mexico in the nineteenth century, its performance
in domestic environments and the delayed matter of a musical canon in Mexico. The
Clifford Geertz, ‘Chapter One. Description: Toward and Interpretive Theory of Culture,’ The
Interpretation of Culture (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 3-30.
last section, which is a case study of a conflict between two sopranos and their
followers, is offered as an example of the involvement of Mexican civil society
which, taking opera as a starting point, questions the role of authorities, impresarios
and artists in the theatrical world and brings us back to the interaction of private and
public in musical matters.
The Ubiquity of Opera: between stage and home
Opera’s by-products became the main staple consumed by music amateurs at home
from the 1830s.2 Home repertoire became directly influenced not only by European
trends and fashions, reflected in the music imported or printed in Mexico, but with
the increase of European visiting musicians and opera companies.
From the closing stages of the Spanish dominion, music shops offered a
generous range of classical music. As we have mentioned earlier, the situation
seemed to have changed little during the first years of independent life. There is a
relatively early advertisement for Mozart operas for voice and piano in an 1823
announcement, where the music merchants of El Águila offered to import them
directly from Maurice Schlesinger’s shop in Paris.3 In 1824, a music dealer
announced the sale of music by Beetowen [sic] and violin music by Viotti, Laffonz
[sic]4 and Rietzer as well as music for clarinet by Gebauer.5 The same can be found
in an 1826 supplement to the newspaper El Sol. The detailed announcement of the
new bookstore ‘Bossange padre y compañía’6 is divided into music for pianoforte,
for orchestra, military music, music for violin, flute, clarinet, cello, bassoon, horn,
oboe, viola, flageolet, guitar, and voice. The works of composers such as Rossini,
Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Cherubini, Ries, Pleyel, among others was regularly
featured and sold. The presence of Rossini was the novelty in this list, where a
Zarzuela only became popular, and extremely so, in Mexico in the second part of the 1850s and well
into the twentieth century. Gerónimo Baqueiro Fóster, Historia de la música, III. La música en el
periodo independiente (Mexico: Secretaría de Educación Pública/Instituto Nacional de Bellas
Artes/Departamento de Música/Sección de Investigaciones Científicas, 1964), 304-358.
La Águila Mexicana II, 25 Apr. 1823. Quoted in Luisa del Rosario Aguilar Ruz, ‘La imprenta
musical profana en la ciudad de México (1826-1860),’ Master’s thesis (Mexico: UNAM, 2011), 38.
Probably Charles Philippe Lafont (1781-1839), French violinist who was raised with the Viotti
school and participated in a competition with Niccolò Paganini.
François René Gebauer (1773- 1845), French composer and bassoonist who ccomposed prolifically
for wind instruments. El Sol, 19 May 1824.
They were probably related to the famous family of prestigious French printers and booksellers who,
during the first half of the nineteenth century, extended their business from France to Canada. Martin
was the father and Hector was the son.
heavily classical-instrumental repertoire still dominated.7 At the end of that same
year, another store advertised ‘a good assortment of instrumental and vocal music by
the best Italian masters, particularly overtures, complete operas and vocal music by
the celebrated Rossini’.
This turn towards opera is apparent in the second half of the 1820s, when
arrangements of opera selections for piano and voice assumed an absolute first place
among the offerings in newspaper advertisements. Piano pieces in various genres,
which seldom figured during previous years, held a close second place. We can
deduce from these advertisements not only the growing popularity of opera, but also
the fact that Mexicans usually familiarised themselves with and enjoyed operas in
home formats prior to their premieres at the theatre. This fact, which is supported by
the repertoire in the albums analysed in Chapter Two, is a crucial phenomenon of
‘lesser’ operatic centres such as nineteenth-century Mexico City, where people’s first
experience of opera was, in the main, fragmentary, by way of favourite arias which
they performed themselves.8 When going to the opera, the public asked the singers to
repeat those arias they knew and cherished from their home practice. Among many
reports of this occurrence, for instance in 1852 with Max Maretzek’s company the
prima donna Bertucca had to repeat ‘Una voce poco fa’ from Il barbiere di Siviglia,9
and 1854 the public insisted that Balbina Steffenone repeated the aria ‘Son vergin
vezzosa’ from I puritani and that Henriette Sontag repeated arias from her role of
Maria in La fille du regiment.10 As early as 1828, the important music publisher
Galván offered the music and lyrics, ‘luxuriously bound’, of the following operas:
Mosè in Egitto [1833], Maometto secondo [1832], La cenerentola [1827], Il turco in
Italia by Rossini and Il crociato in Egitto [1837] by Meyerbeer.11 But while the
Supplement to El Sol, 21 Sept. 1826. We delve further into this repertoire in a section about
reception of German music in Mexico later in the chapter.
The fact that salons were places that presented music in advance to theatres is a phenomenon that
can be found in other parts of the Western world. See for instance Halina Goldberg, ‘Chopin in
Warsaw’s Salons’, Polish Music Journal, Vol.2, Nos. 1-2, 1999. Accessed 27.06.2006,
< > Candace Bailey encountered a similar phenomenon in
the United States regarding the fact that visiting pianists disseminated operatic repertoire in homes.
See Candace Bailey, ‘The Antebellum “Piano Girl” in the American South,’ Performance Practice
Review 13 (2008), Claremont Graduate University, 12, and see also my Chapter Five for Henri Herz’s
visit to Mexico and the musical publications he released while in the country.
El Siglo XIX, 16 June 1852.
El Siglo XIX, 20 Apr. and 13 May 1854 respectively.
Dates in parenthesis are of the Mexican premieres. El Sol, 30 June 1828. We do not have the date of
the first performance of Il turco in Italia, but we found a reference of Carolina Pellegrini singing parts
of this opera in the theatre: a cavatina and a duet, according to an announcement in El Sol of 12 Jan.
1830, a couple of years after the previous advertisement . There is an even earlier announcement of
announcement of 1828 sold these lavish, and probably imported, opera reductions for
voice and piano, for the very expensive price of 10 pesos, in the 1840s there are
already advertisements that indicate the popularization of these arrangements,
presumably made and printed in Mexico, with a consequent significant lowering of
price. For instance, Saverio Mercadante’s Il Giuramento was sold by subscription, in
28 weekly deliveries inside and outside Mexico City.12 It cost one real a week in the
capital and two reales in the rest of the country, an undoubtedly affordable price for
the public. If sold in its totality for 28 reales in the capital (that is three pesos and
four reales) it would have been unaffordable for most people, but a weekly expense
of one real was something most families interested in music would have been able to
pay for. The least expensive ticket to the theatre cost four reales.
It is worthwhile to comment here on the centralising force of the Mexican
capital, where most music printing shops were located and where most of the best
performances took place. This meant that a sort of ‘outsiders’ tax’ for those living in
the provinces came into play, since as we have seen above, they often had to pay
more in order to buy musical subscriptions, and it would have been the same with
their having to travel to the Mexican capital (find lodging, etc.) in order to attend
most of these live performances.
Evidence of the mounting popularity of the piano in Mexico can be found in
the increasingly frequent advertisements of these instruments for sale in the papers.
In a revision of the most representative papers in order to examine piano sales at this
time, we found 20 advertisements for the 1820s, 52 for the 1830s and 86 for the
1840s. Even taking into account that there was a significant growth of papers, and
access to publications by a greater segment of the population, the numbers are a clear
indication of the increase in the piano market. This is reinforced by the frequent
advertisements of music for two, four or eight hands, printed and/or sold in the
country for this instrument, as per the advertisements, and the large quantity of extant
sheet music of these characteristics. Etudes and methods for learning the piano by
well-known pianists, such as Czerny, Cramer, Herz, Hünten, Schmidt, among others,
four of Rossini’s operas for sale in piano and voice format in 1823: L’italiana in Algeri, Otello, Il
barbiere di Siviglia and Mosè in Egitto, La Águila Mexicana, Vol. II, 22 Aug.1823. Quoted in Aguilar
Ruz, ‘La imprenta musical profana,’ 39.
El Siglo XIX, 13 Feb, 1844. In the same newspaper, on 2 August 1844, there is an announcement for
the subscribers of the voice and piano subscription of Bellini’s I puritani, asking them to contact the
shop in order to get missing parts, or to ‘reactivate’ their subscription. The new editors offer ‘to solve
these problems immediately.’ This, of course, was only feasible for those living in Mexico City.
are regularly featured. The popularity of the piano was an additional factor that
played a fundamental role in the dissemination of operatic repertoire in the home, in
which this instrument played the orchestral role when accompanying the singer, or
condensed in itself, in the format of operatic fantasies and variations to feed the
Mexicans’ passion for opera. The repertoire ranges between relatively easy
arrangements for piano and voice of the most popular arias, to multi-hand piano
arrangements of overtures of medium difficulty, to more challenging works such as
the fantasies and variations mentioned above. More generally speaking, this new
wealth of pianos in the Mexican society was part and parcel, cause and consequence,
of this flourishing of music among Mexico’s upper classes.
Unsurprisingly, with the sole exception of operatic arrangements, the sale of
instrumental music other than for the piano diminished compared with previous
decades. As mentioned earlier, the guitar acquired new importance as
accompaniment for singing. John Koegel has found virtuosic arrangements for two
guitars of Tancredi, L’italiana in Algeri and Il barbiere di Siviglia, which he dates as
early as the first part of the 1820s.These are found in manuscript SMMS M2, in the
Sutro Library in San Francisco.13 The rise of the guitar is related also to the sale of
Spanish pieces such as Zapateado de Cádiz, La Manola, La Pepita or Jaleo de
Jérez.14 This is another instance of the direct relationship between theatre and home
music repertoire, for these Spanish dances were often presented at the theatre during
the intermissions and the end of a concert, opera or play, as an expected bonus for
the audience.15 According to dance historian Maya Ramos Smith, Spanish, Mexican
and salon dances, such as waltzes, quadrilles and contradanzas, were danced in the
entr’actes at the theatre.16
The market also expanded for local composers who sold arrangements of
operas and other compositions. José Antonio Gómez was not the only one to publish
his arrangements of opera in the Instructor Filarmónico: but Agustín Balderas also
John Koegel, ‘Nuevas fuentes musicales para danza, teatro y salón de la Nueva España,’
Heterofonía 116-117 (1997), 22.
See for instance El Siglo XIX, 24 Apr. and 15 June 1844 or 5 Jan. 1849.
Furthermore, these pieces were taught in dance lessons for the young bourgeoisie. Don Francisco
Pavia, presumably a Spanish dance master, offer to teach ‘national and foreign dance genres’ and
among the latter he offered: ‘Boleros and Fandango, Cachucha, Zapateado de Cádiz, Jaleo de Jerez,
Gavota, Jota aragonesa and Baile inglés’, El Siglo XIX, 6 July 1843.
At the end of the opera veritable ballets were offered and dances were also present within spoken
drama and opera when required. Maya Ramos Smith, El ballet en México en el Siglo XIX. De la
(Mexico: Alianza/Conaculta, c1991), 18.
arranged a waltz based on themes of the opera Don Pasquale by Donizetti and sold it
through ‘Repertorio de Música’ in Mexico City.17 Among these local musical
productions, there is even an occasional space for women composers. The Music
Repertory of Calle de la Monterilla No. 3 pompously declares that: ‘Young ladies
and gentlemen who would like to bring to light philharmonic productions will be
gladly accepted, and the owner will rejoice to have the honour of publishing the
beautiful compositions of his beloved fellow citizens’.18 A remarkable convergence
of a woman musician, a renowned painter, a professor at the San Carlos Academy,
and one of Mexico’s foremost lithographers took place with María de Jesús Cepeda y
Cosío’s composition ‘Prayer’ for piano and voice, written as homage to the deceased
fellow singer, Antonia Aduna. The vignette was painted by Pelegrín Clavé and
lithographed by Hesiquio Yriarte. Un recuerdo de Antonia Adunia, as the piece was
named in honour of Aduna, was printed by well-known publisher Murgía.19
Operatic troupes and visiting musicians were savvy enough to make extra
money by selling home formats of their music. Cellist Maximilian Bohrer, pianist
and violinist William Vincent Wallace, harpist Charles Bochsa and soprano Anna
Bishop, pianist Henri Herz and violinist Franz Coenen, all published and sold works
in Mexico, including fantasias or variations on opera themes.
When visiting Mexico in 1854, the celebrated Henrietta Sontag published El
álbum lírico de Enriqueta Sontag. Condesa de Rossi, [The Lyric Album of Henrietta
Sontag, Countess of Rossi] for piano solo, including pieces from Il barbiere di
Siviglia, Norma, I puritani, La sonnambula, Lucia di Lammermoor, Lucrezia Borgia,
La fille du régiment, Don Giovanni, Robert le diable and Hernani.20 It is intriguing
that a singing celebrity should release a piano solo album.21 The title of the album
remains ambiguous and there is no clear way of proving whether Sontag actually put
this album together herself for additional profit or whether it was simply a clever
marketing ploy by a third party to appeal to possible buyers by using the lure of her
El Siglo XIX, 14 Apr. 1846.
El Monitor Republicano, 5 May 1849.
Ibid., 13 June 1849. Cepeda y Cosío’s trajectory was analysed in Chapter Three.
El Siglo XIX, 7 May 1854. The album contained 50 pieces. The day the advertisement was
published, Sontag’s company was performing Ernani, and the rival company was performing Il
I have found no further references for similar piano solo publications by major singers, although
there are numerous fantasies, dances, variations and the like published by other composers honouring
these singers and their talents.
As travelling celebrities, many singers were in constant demand on and offstage. This was especially true for the principal singers of any opera company, who
in addition to tutoring students of voice, were often invited to the homes of the crème
de la crème in order to perform at their soirées. Their presence undoubtedly added
prestige and status to native Mexicans who wanted to show off their wealth and
general cosmopolitanism. It was also yet another, and glamorous, way that the
operatic repertoire naturally circulated from theatre to the home. Madame Fanny
Calderón de la Barca, gave a detailed account of one such occasion where she
described the interaction between members of a visiting opera troupe and the
Mexican elite. Calderón de la Barca also specified the repertoire she heard performed
that night.
Her account also raises interesting matters regarding less well known aspects
of the opera business outside the theatre, such as the further enterprise of pleasing
patrons and thus ensuring future visits to Mexico, among other things. In this case
the (clerical) father and host who organised the gathering had to request permission
from the troupe’s manager in order for the leading soprano, Miss Anaide Castellan,
to perform at his home.
Yesterday we went to a soirée at the — minister's. Madame Castellan and her tenor
were there, and had come from a dinner given by a rich curate to the whole corps
opératique, from the prima donna down to the joueur du fagote, and even to the
tailor who makes the opera dresses, and his wife. This rich padre, it is said, spends a
great part of his fortune in entertaining actors and singers. La Castellan (permission
to that effect having been obtained from the manager, for it is against their
agreement to perform in private houses) sang several airs to the piano, with much
expression, especially from Robert le Diable; and Nina Pazza per Amore [by
Giovani Paisiello]; but I prefer her voice in the theatre. She is not at all beautiful, but
has a charming face with a very musical expression.22
The proliferation of weekly or bi-weekly musical periodicals by subscription was
also a way Mexican music publishers acquired a captive clientele for their products,
and another way of getting, mainly operatic, repertoire into the Mexican home. A
subscription assured, at least in theory, a long-term relationship between customer
and publisher. As we have seen in Chapter Two, the music publishing business was
fundamentally oriented toward amateur and semi-professional women who became
Frances Calderón de la Barca, Life in Mexico [1839-1842], London: Chapman and Hall, 1843, >
Letter the Forty-Second, 1841. Accessed 08 01 2008,
the best customers of these enterprises. Women were, as well, assiduous opera-goers
and greatly influenced by operatic fashion such as the wardrobe and hairdos of the
opera singers, making opera profitable not only for those directly involved in music
We shall now address the public music realm and enter the theatres where the
musical drama—spoken, sung, and performed by artists, and the public—took place.
Theatres in Mexico City
Despite Mexicans’ fondness for theatre, it took several decades after independence
for the inhabitants of Mexico’s capital to develop a regular theatrical life. Political
instability, together with the lack of funds related to the complexities of
implementing a national existence, were factors in this delay. Fires, wars, and disease
also contributed to keep theatres closed for significant periods of time. Yet, once
established, theatres became favoured spaces where Mexicans and foreigners alike
displayed and took note of society’s behaviour and evaluated the construction of a
civil society and issues of identity from their respective viewpoints.
The oldest locale adapted for theatre in New Spain was the Real Hospital de
Naturales (Royal Hospital of Natives), which opened in 1672. Spanish comedies
were the main fare and theatre performances were scheduled during the day given
that artificial lighting was so poor, that, under the cover of darkness, all kinds of
‘immoralities’ allegedly took place inside the hall. In 1722, a fire signalled its death
sentence and, despite all attempts, it could never regain the preferences of Mexico
City theatregoers. In 1752, the viceroy Count of Revillagigedo ordered the
construction of a New Coliseum, as it was named, that was modelled on Spanish
theatres and whose doors opened on 23 December 1753. The new theatre underwent
several misfortunes, including a fire, but survived into independent times when it
was renamed Teatro de México or Teatro Principal.23 It remained intermittently
closed due to political instability or the ruinous state of the facilities. After the
opening of the Teatro Nacional in 1844, the Principal fell, ironically, into a definite
second place.24
Baqueiro Fóster, Historia de la música, 20-36.
In 1885, the Principal underwent a complete redesign and was mainly dedicated, from then on, to
zarzuela, thanks to which genre it enjoyed a revival until 1931, when it was definitively consumed by
Two years after independence, in 1823, a new theatre, ‘El Teatro de los
Gallos’ opened; it was named after the cock-fights it originally had housed, also
known as ‘Teatro Nuevo’, ‘Teatro Provisional’, or ‘Teatro de la Ópera’. It was a
humble locale and poorly lit. In 1841, the whole theatre was painted, 90 oil lamps
and a new curtain were installed, and the stage enlarged. It was short-lived but its
importance lay in the diversification of spectacles it encouraged within the city.25
That same year, entrepreneur Francisco Arbeu conceived the project of an
‘elegant and sumptuous’ theatre, superior in every sense to the Teatro Principal. He
requested a couple of architectural projects, of which he selected the one by Spanish
architect, Lorenzo de la Hidalga. Arbeu bought a plot of land in the central business
district of the city, close to the Teatro Principal. He committed himself to build the
theatre in a two-year period, for which he had to seek support from the city council.
The city council lent him the money under harsh conditions, which Arbeu had to
accept. The cornerstone was laid by Arbeu, Lorenzo de la Hidalga and President
Santa Anna together with his ministers, and on 10 February 1844, the Teatro
Nacional was opened. It had a total of 2,248 seats. The Teatro Nacional, also called
Teatro Santa Anna, was Mexico City’s main theatre until its demise in 1900. It was
here where most of the opera companies, ballet spectacles, visiting musicians, and
generally, all the main artistic theatrical activity took place.26
fire. María Eugenia Aragón, El Teatro Nacional en la ciudad de México. 1841-1901, Premios Rodolfo
Usigli, 1992 (Mexico: INBA/CITRU, 1995), 41-3. Aragón’s book is a detailed account of the
construction and distribution of the Teatro Nacional and it includes brief sections on the other theatres.
On 2 November 1844, this hall was the victim of a fire that completely destroyed it. Ramos-Smith,
El ballet en México, 129.
Aragón, El Teatro Nacional, 67-75. Ramos Smith, El ballet en México, 129-130.
Figure 30. Casimiro Castro, ‘Teatro Nacional de México’, litograph in the álbum
México y sus alrededores, siglo XIX (1855-6)
Whereas in Italy, boxes were owned, sold and mortgaged, in Mexico they
were rented by yearly subscription and occasionally by the season; nonetheless
people regarded them as their personal property, a fact that could cause problems
when the impresario sublet a box that had been left unoccupied but then faced the
returning ‘owner’s’ rage. Boxes were the domain of the upper classes and functioned
as veritable receiving rooms, while stalls were the spaces favoured by the middle
classes, and the gallery, named ‘cazuela’ (saucepan), housed the working classes,
less affluent but all the same keen on opera. There was no standing room at the
European travellers wrote their impressions of the Mexican halls, inevitably
comparing them to the European theatres they knew. The Englishman W. Bullock,
who visited Mexico in 1824, was favourably impressed by Mexico’s New Coliseum
and especially liked the low boxes as, unlike those in English theatres, they allowed
him to see the ‘whole-length figure of the ladies’. Unfortunately for him, however, in
the performances he attended few ladies were present.28 Travels in Mexico, which
gives an account of Anna Bishop’s tour, also reports on the advantages of the low
balconies, and provides further details about the boxes:
The balustrade of the boxes, being exceedingly low, a fair opportunity is afforded for
an advantageous view of the ladies and their display of toilette. Behind each box is a
small private room (as in the Opéra Comique in Paris) where they retire to take ices
El Apuntador (1840), 42.
W. Bullock, Six Months’ Residence and Travels in Mexico (London: John Murray, 1824), 170-2.
or chocolate by way of entr’actes, and usually furnished with a carpet, mirror, armchairs and a small table, at the expense, and according to the taste, of the subscribers.
It is very seldom that a lady comes to the theatre without her bouquet, which is
always a most choice and expensive article, frequently costing fifteen or twenty
The writer considered the theatre ‘a fine building’ although ‘not to be compared with
the Tacón Theatre of Havana, La Scala of Milan or the San Carlo of Naples’.30
Figure 31. Pietro (Pedro) Gualdi, ‘Interior del Teatro Santa Anna’(c. 1844-1847),
oil on canvas, Banamex Collection, Mexico City.
A rather uncommon instance of a comment about the Mexican theatre was
published in the French Journal des débats politiques et littéraires that deals with the
numbering of seats in Mexican theatres, which, for European standards, was an
unusual feature. The writer ‘X.X.X.’ (François-Henri-Joseph Blaze, known as CastilBlaze) applauded this fact: ‘In the Mexican theatre, all seats are numbered, and they
are only to be released to the amateurs, dilettanti, consumers, who present their
ticket. In this fashion, there are never crowds at the door; everyone arrives as early or
as late as they wish or as they are required by their own businesses’. The ironic,
somewhat colonialist, tone of the remark that follows emphasizes the otherness of
Mexicans, identifying them as ‘Indians’ and, more than a criticism of the French
Travels of Anna Bishop in Mexico. 1849 (Philadelphia: Charles Deal, 1852), 81-2. John Koegel’s
hypothesis of a French writer is supported by the constant interspersion of French words in the text.
Ibid., 78. This high-class, refined ambience is contrasted, in the same account, by the ‘barbarous’
custom of smoking in the theatre, as we see later in the chapter.
system, constitutes a praise of a society otherwise regarded as primitive: ‘Those
Indians, which no long ago were considered barbarians, these subjects of
Montezuma…; these Mexicans are now more advanced than us regarding theatrical
civilisation’.31 Certainly, the misunderstandings in cultural translation worked in both
directions between Europe and Mexico.
Civilising the Mexican public: morality, order and authority inside the theatre
By virtue of music, and especially opera, the theatre was considered a cultivated
space where the horrors of crime, war, and illnesses were largely kept at bay. It
indirectly meant an affirmation of the possibility of existence of the new, civilised,
country Mexico was trying to be—an image it was trying to project to the rest of the
world. As one commentator put it, ‘in all enlightened countries, there is no closure of
theatres, because spectacles of this kind always evoke the idea of civilization and one
always attempts to preserve them, if possible, even if this incurs expenses to the
public treasury’.32 Several issues such as lighting the theatre, having it open
regularly, having a resident opera company, regulating behaviour and educating the
public inside the theatre, were debated throughout the period concerned. These issues
exemplify the negotiations over the nature of public spaces and the construction of
citizenship in the new Mexican republic, which included negotiating what Mexicans
considered to be the European paradigm.
If dressing properly and behaving decently were requirements of the new
cultivated elite who were establishing the basis of the Mexican civility, appropriate
lighting in the theatre was necessary to perform, in more than one sense, the duties of
their group. Gas-illuminated theatres arrived in Mexico more than two decades after
those of the main European centres.33 Mexico’s first, but failed, attempt to introduce
gas lighting to the National Theatre was only in 1846 and the second, more
successful one dates from 11 September 1849, during one of Henri Herz’s concerts.34
Journal des débats politiques et littéraires, 12 Nov. 1829.
AHDF, Teatros, file 54, number 92, 1853 (2 July 1853). The undersigned ask that the Minister of
Internal Affairs (Gobernación) take the measures needed for the reopening of theatres.
The first experiments with gas lighting at King’s Theatre in London were as early as 1818. From
then on, the expansion of lighting inside the theatre was gradual and constant in Europe. At the Paris
Opéra, gas lighting was introduced in 1822.
Jennifer Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts. Opera and Elite Culture in London, 1780-1880 (Durham,
NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2007), 27-8, and James H. Johnson, Listening in Paris. A
Before that, oil lamps illuminated Mexico’s theatres and under their flickering and
sombre lights, performances and social interaction took place, to the constant
grievances of the public. Since morality and civilisation were constant issues in the
minds of the Mexican elite after independence, the issue of lighting inside the theatre
acquired a particular importance. Mexico’s tardiness in developing an effective way
of illuminating the theatres caused not only concerns about morality but also about
the side-effects of the oil-lamps in use—oil stains on theatregoers’ dresses.35
Moreover, the oil in the lamps frequently ran out before the performance was
over. In 1840, El Apuntador described the lighting of the theatre as comprising a
single large oil lamp in the middle of the hall, two old small lamps close to the stage,
and one between each of the boxes; the writer comments that already by the second
act, six or eight oil lamps were already out, and long before the end, the hall was
practically in the dark, and, in addition the dirty oil gave off an unpleasant smell.36 If
that were not enough, shortage of oil or stinginess on the part of the theatre
management forced the public to leave the theatre in the dark, staircases included.
Reinforcing the idea of lighting as a condition for proper behaviour, and not without
irony, the Apuntador described the ‘positive’ effect poor lighting had on
(unsanctioned) amorous affairs: ‘jealous husbands, acting suspiciously as prisoner
guards of their women, curse it, while the lovers of the stalls celebrate it’.37 What
seems to be clear is that the main purpose of lighting related to all kinds of social
interaction—‘to see and to be seen’, rather than as a way of highlighting the
Nevertheless, music was considered of paramount importance as a means of
educating the Mexican people. One writer considered that music, generally, had the
capacity ‘to temper the people’s mores’. The author wished that ‘we could hear in
Mexico, as in Germany, an instrument played in every house and full orchestras in
public places.’39 One of the main arguments in favour of having a permanent opera
company, and having theatres open, was that it would make Mexicans more civilised
and bring them closer to Europe: objectives always held dear by the Mexican elite.
Cultural History (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1995), 189. For
Mexico, see El Siglo XIX, 13 Sept. 1849 and onwards.
El Apuntador (1840), 36.
Ibid., 42.
In a similar fashion, Hall-Witt, op. cit. regarding the King’s Theatre in London found that:
‘Commentators on the lighting, in fact, regularly focused on the social purpose of the lights,’ 28.
El Siglo XIX, 18 Feb. 1842.
The fear of a public falling into vicious conduct because of an absence of theatrical
entertainment was even used to demand theatre performances during Lent, when
theatres remained closed during Colonial times.
A progressively pragmatic drive is seen on the part of the authorities when
granting permits for performances during Lent from the 1840s onwards. In 1842, the
opera impresario Joaquín Roca asked the government’s permission to continue to
offer performances during Lent. The Comisión de Diversiones Públicas [Committee
of Public Recreational Activities] agreed to Roca’s request with the modest
restriction that ‘he presents nothing damaging to the upcoming Lent, [or] upright
morals’. Rocca’s request was based on the need for funds to cover the high expenses
he was incurring by hiring foreign artists whose salaries and travels he needed to
In another application from a private association, the Society of La Bella
Unión, to put on ‘instrumental and vocal concerts’ during Lent in their premises,
there is also no mention of religious or moral issues. The reply from the authorities
comes in the form of an authorisation that sets at one peso the fees for each of the 26
concerts that the said Society will have to pay to the municipal treasury.41 From 1845
different kinds of performances are authorised during Lent, including dolls dancing
to music, aerostatic balloon ascents and stunt shows. In 1849, a delighted opera fan
relished the thought of witnessing the forthcoming Norma performance at the theatre,
writing ‘How long and arduous the days of Lent, when there is no entertainment for
the public, nor places for reunion! How sweet then it is to attend a beautiful theatre to
enrapture ourselves in those emotions only music can make one feel!’42 That same
year, the writer Genio argues in favour of leaving the theatres open during Lent from
a moral point of view: ‘it is perhaps more damaging to leave the youth without a
harmless pastime that prevents them stepping out of line, than to allow an
entertainment that in no way contradicts the holy time [of Lent]’.43 These
performances are a telling example of the weakening, or at least a necessary
flexibility, of the religious moral and political authority of the Church versus local
government, which despite being in dire economic difficulties and still politically
Historical Archives of the Federal District (AHDF), file 98, Teatros 6, 1842.
AHDF, file 123, Diversiones Públicas 43, ‘Conciertos de cuaresma en la Sociedad de la Bellas
El Monitor Republicano, 27 Feb. 1849.
Ibid., 10 Feb. 1849.
unstable, was increasingly exercising control over citizens’ activities, including tax
and fee collection.
Accordingly to the more repressive times of Antonio López de Santa Anna’s
dictatorship (1853-1855), in 1853 the arguments for keeping theatres open at all
times assumed a more controlling tone, arguing that the youth could be ‘kept closely
watched by the authorities and are thus being prevented from visiting other houses in
which they are exposed to dangers of great consequence.’ In addition, there was the
omnipresent fear of not complying with international standards by reminding the
authorities that it was a ‘disgraceful sight to foreigners’ to see the theatres closed.44
Even a decade later a composer pleading for state support for founding a music
conservatory employed a similar rhetoric and went as far as to claim that music could
keep young women away from prostitution and young men away from vices.45
Another instance of civil society putting pressure on the authorities to grant
support for theatrical activities were the proposals sent to the City Council to
establish permanent opera companies. Their proponents constantly argued in the
name of the ‘public good’ and stressed the character of opera as a civilised and
civilising entertainment. The government had sometimes financed the formation of
an opera company, such as that of Filippo Galli in 1831, when an envoy was sent to
Europe to recruit the company, which he brought back to Mexico. However,
wavering municipal support brought the enterprise periods of non-payment and
eventually to bankruptcy and disbandment in 1837. During the period under study,
opera companies in Mexico were privately financed, survived briefly and in
precarious conditions.
An 1840 proposal to the formation of an opera company mentioned ‘the
agreeable sensations, full of sweetness’ produced by opera, and we read again of the
argument that opera softens society’s mores.46 Similar arguments were employed in
1842 when a new ‘Project to establish Italian Opera in Mexico’ claimed that music
was ‘one of the main ingredients of a good education’, whose ‘social advantages’
were manifold, including a direct influence on the city’s reduction of crime, for it
was ‘an indirect means by which to prevent delinquency and to address, if only
partially, the insecurity of the life of Mexico’s residents, whose welfare always ought
AHDF, Teatros, file 54, number 92, 1853. (2 July 1853). The undersigned ask that the Minister of
Internal Affairs (Gobernación) take the measures needed for the reopening of theatres.
AHDF, Instrucción Pública en General, Vol. 2481, file 625, number 145, 1863. (4 Sept. 1863).
La Hesperia, 24 Oct. 1840.
to be of prime concern to all at City Hall’. The project proposed that music and opera
be financed by municipal support.47 The proposal sought to demonstrate to the
authorities that opera could actually help them in some of their basic tasks: to
improve public order and behaviour. Other equally general arguments are the
Mexicans’ great fondness for music, which they apparently considered ‘one of the
foremost subjects in a good education’. The clear objective was not only to obtain
authorisation but also financial support which, as proven by the breakdown of
previous opera enterprises doomed to failure without the council’s support. Of
course, the proponents were seeking to save or boost their own businesses with selfserving arguments to obtain public funds; but the repeated applications for financial
resources for the opera during these critically difficult decades in political and
economic terms, are also a sign of the interest, and the need, important sectors of the
elite felt towards a still non-existent, permanent opera company.48
There were some who grew suspicious of opera because of its foreignness,
and despite their being a minority, their arguments are telling of a patriotic drive
which considered spoken theatre, in Spanish, a much more valuable theatrical and
educational entertainment than Italianate opera. Mexican theatre chronicler Pascual
Almazán disliked the ‘philharmonic mania’ that had gripped Mexican society and
that was eclipsing spoken drama. He dared to suggest that the suspension of the
opera company, a possibility that was real in 1838 due to lack of funds, would
benefit traditional theatre. He considered theatre a national enterprise in contrast to
opera which loomed as an imported product and was backed by Europhile fans. No
sooner had he posted this opinion than an offended opera fan responded that despite
never having been to Europe nor seen Robert le diable—facts Almazán ascribed to
opera lovers— he, like most Mexican people, loved opera and would not let the
foolish opinions of someone like Almazán deprive him of it.49
European opinions of and discussions about opera brought back by Mexicans
who travelled there, constituted an additional element in the conversations about
opera. The elite of privileged Mexicans who had the opportunity to travel to Europe
were sometimes lampooned for their snobbery when they returned, and part of the
AHDF, Diversiones públicas, file 121, number 19, 1843.
There is another 1843 request for permission and financial support, including tax exemptions, from
the authorities to sustain an opera company by subscribers in order to avoid at all costs the suspension
of opera seasons. AHDF, Diversiones públicas, letter from 23 Jan. 1843, signed by Luis Gonzaga
Vieyra, Gabriel Valencia and A. Adoue.
El Recreo 7 (1 Feb. 1838), 280 and 9 (1 Mar.1838), 360.
subject for ridicule were their continuous comparisons of all things Mexican to
European models, and their love for opera. In the play by Mexican playwright
Fernando Calderón, A ninguna de las tres (To None of the Three), on returning from
France and Italy the character Don Carlos not only describes the beautiful streets of
Paris and the soirées he attended but also the music he witnessed, which is,
unsurprisingly, opera:
Don Carlos: Bravo! And that the language
of music is universal.
Rossini pleases me so much!
But Bellini is more tender,
More ‘touching’: I saw in Rome,
No, not in Rome, it was in Milan,
I saw Il pirata, I saw La straniera:
Oh, how gorgeous they were! I think
It was around the feast day of Saint John.
Exactly! But, nothing
Like Norma, what beauty!
Nature speaks therein.50 (4.2, p. 313)
Don Carlos is not a likable character in the play and his snobbery makes him
unsuitable in the eyes of the traditional Don Juan, father of three young ladies, as a
candidate to marry one of his daughters. The position represented by Don Juan in the
play was present in the Mexican society in a minority and conservative section of the
dominant elite. These literary discussions support the idea of a division within the
Mexican elite, which we will further explore in relation to Manuel García’s visit,
between conservative groups closer to the Spanish culture and values, and those
‘liberal party’ supporters who were looking to the U.S.A. and France, and were
more open to new political ideas and cultural influences, including opera.51 In any
event, the discussions that from time to time sparked around these matters served to
ignite further interest for opera rather than to discredit it.
Fernando Calderón, ‘A ninguna de las tres’ [ca.1837-1840], in Teatro mexicano decimonónico,
selection of texts and prol. by Eduardo Contreras Soto (Mexico: Ediciones Cal y Arena, 2006), 211.
However, during the conservative government of President Anastasio Bustamante (1830-1832),
Lucas Alamán, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, commanded Colonel Manuel de la Barrera to create three
companies of theatre, opera and dance. De la Barrera announced in the newspapers that despite the
government being practically bankrupt it was ready to support this enterprise with sufficient funds.
The company that de la Barrera brought to Mexico was that of Filipppo Galli. See Joel Almazán
Orihuela, ‘La recepción musical de las óperas de Gioachino Rossini en la ciudad de México (18211831),’ Heterofonía 129 (July-Dec. 2003): 60-64.
Another reason to dislike theatre-going, also from a conservative point of
view but this time from an American, was on moral grounds and applied to the fair
sex. Brantz Mayer found Mexican women’s penchant for theatre harmful:
I cannot but think this habitual domestication at the theatre, is injurious to the habits
of the Mexicans. It makes their women live too much abroad, and cultivates a love of
admiration. The dull, dawdling morning at home, is succeeded by an evening drive;
and that, again by the customary seat at the Opera or Play house, where they listen to
repetitions of the same pieces, flirt with the same cavaliers, or play the graceful with
their fans.52
Concerns for women’s decency came also from the Mexican side in the form of a
reprimand to the impresario of the Teatro Principal from the municipal authorities for
installing blinds, something similar to grilles in the French fashion, in the balcony
boxes and asking him to remove them. The government commission eloquently
argued that ‘it is a must for all nations to imitate the good of others. By this it does
not wish to say that all uses and customs of other nations must be adapted without
good judgment or prudence, however advanced these habits may be situated along
the path of civilisation’.53 According to the commission, to adopt this practice was
threatening Mexicans’ morality because it made surveillance difficult. This is an
interesting case where the project of educating Mexican society in the theatre became
critical of imitating the European, French in this case, whose mores the commission
found unfit for the Mexican mores.
Behaviour in the theatre I: smoking and seating
During the eighteenth century, smoking developed sexual connotations for women
on stage or those of loose morals, and became unacceptable in the high European
society; other women continued to smoke as a challenge to patriarchal society.54 In
the antebellum U.S.A. smoking tobacco and hand-rolled cigarettes was hardly a
practiced habit, because it was seen as a foreign and strange custom, while chewing
tobacco was ubiquitous in all public places including theatres well into the second
Brantz Mayer, Mexico as It Was and as It Is, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: G. B. Zieber & Company, 1844),
AHDF, Teatros, file 43, number 45, 1845.
Although privately it seems that the practice was resilient and there were ladies’ smoking clubs.
Linda Hutcheon and Michael Hutcheon, ‘Smoking in opera’, Smoke: a global history of smoking, eds.
Sander L. Gilman and Xun Zhou (London: Reaktion Books, 2004), 230.
half of the century, to the revulsion of foreigners.55 In Mexico, however, men and
women continued to smoke, and smoking carried on in soirées, cafés and inside
theatres well into the second half of the nineteenth century.
Smoking was a deep-rooted custom in Mexican territory since pre-Hispanic
times. After the conquest tobacco became a valuable asset for Spain. Since tobacco
was considered one of the major riches of New Spain, the Spanish Crown held a
monopoly on it during colonial times. In the first decades of existence of the new
country tobacco still was a major source of governmental income, and governments
went back and forth between centralising and liberalising measures regarding
tobacco production and trading. The fact was that tobacco manufacturing gave
employment to a considerable portion of the working classes of Mexico City.56
According to contemporary descriptions, theatres were filled with smoke during
performances. Foreign visitors to the Mexican theatres did not fail to comment on the
annoying experience of extended smoking in the theatre. Smoking emerged for some
of them as a marker of exoticism or barbaric behaviour of a people in dire need of
being civilised. In the visitors’ view, smoking had to be eradicated and overcome in
due time, with civilisation. A ‘logic of Coloniality’ implied the idea of Mexicans as
second class Europeans, at an earlier stage of development.57
This is the case with Englishman W. Bullock, who during his visit in 1824,
was especially overawed by the sight of women smokers and who described the
smoke-filled hall in this manner: ‘With very few exceptions, all present, of either
sex, pursued their favourite habit of smoking; the ladies even in the boxes, with a fan
in one hand and a cigar in the other, enveloped in a smoke that rendered it difficult to
see from one side of the house to the other’.58 25 years later, visiting English singer
Anna Bishop associated the custom with lower classes and savagery: ‘The
atmosphere of the theatre is, in consequence [of the extended smoking], much the
same as that of a large and popular tavern, which is a source of excessive discomfort
The situation changed once cigarettes began to be mass-produced in the 1880s. ‘Cigarettes:
Women. Coffin Nails; The Tobacco Controversy in the 19th Century.’ Accessed 21 07 2011,
<> U.S. soldiers
when in Mexico during the 1847-8 war became keen on smoking cigarettes and brought back with
them to their country this habit, which was regarded as low class and condemned in etiquette manuals.
Enrique Canudas Sandoval, Las venas de plata en la historia de México. Síntesis de historia
económica. Siglo XIX, Vol. III (Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Tabasco, 2005).
Walter D. Mignolo, The Idea of Latin America, Blackwell Manifestos (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005),
Bullock, Six Months’ Residence, 171-2.
to foreigners. The daily increasing influx, however, of Europeans will, it is hoped, at
a not very distant period, have considerably lessened, if not totally abolished, this
barbarous custom’.59 Slowly, however, the place of smoking began to be
reconsidered in Spanish America, both in the old empire and in the ex colonies,
probably in the light of foreign negative ideas about it.
Not only Bishop was annoyed at the smoky theatre but an 1849 Mexican
article also expressed its author’s annoyance at ‘the uncivilised smoke from the
thousand Havana cigars burning in the theatre’s pit.60 The arguments indeed moved
closer to those expressed by foreign visitors. An 1852 remark reminds Mexicans that:
‘only in Mexico is there smoking in the theatres’.61 Other changes placed women
outside the smoking group and resulted in anti-smoking arguments that this habit
caused nuisance for the ladies.62 Furthermore, for the first time concerns were raised
that singers’ voices were affected by the smoke. The quest to stop smokers went as
far as veiled threats of publicly denouncing the smokers, who now were more easily
identifiable as few of them were left in the theatre.63
Although bans on smoking in theatres existed earlier, the stringent SantaAnna’s 1853 Theatre Regulations issued by the Federal District’s governor Miguel
María de Azcárate were particularly radical: ‘Article 35. It is absolutely prohibited to
smoke in the auditorium, balconies and galleries during the performance, the
entr’actes and even prior to the commencement of the overture or symphony’.64
Despite all this, smokers persisted in their habit inside the theatre, and apparently the
government had more pressing issues on which to display its authority.
Notwithstanding recriminations by foreigners and sectors of the Mexican public
about smoking in the theatre, the habit persisted in the Mexican halls. This
entrenched Mexican habit proved resilient to the comments and rulings against it as a
native practice and despite concerns of the anti-civilised image it projected to
visitors, and measures taken by authorities.
Another idiosyncratic characteristic of the Mexican theatre was the rental of
cushions for the seats in the pit, a custom inherited from Colonial times. Since the
The Travels of Anna Bishop, 82.
El Siglo XIX, 4 Sept. 1849.
Ibid., 5 Apr. and 16 May 1852.
Ibid., 22 Sept. 1850.
Ibid., 21 May 1852.
AHDF, Bandos, box 21, file 32, Teatros, Reglamento de Teatro, 185, Presidente Santa Anna,
Miguel María de Azcárate, Gobernador del Distrito.
theatre seats were made of bare wood, boys specially appointed for the task walked
around with high piles of cushions prior to the performance or during its early stages,
and delivered a cushion after collecting the rental fee of one real. Already in 1831, a
comment published in the papers suggested a logical solution to this annoyance: that
the seats on the theatre should have cushions ‘even if they [the impresarios] need to
charge more for the tickets’. 65 Foreigners did not fail to describe and comment on
the curious matter. Anna Bishop’s diary of 1849 did not find the matter poetically or
aesthetically inspiring but quite plainly annoying: ‘As stall and pit cushions are not
included in the price of the seat, they are never to be found there on the arrival of the
spectator; but are brought round in piles on the heads of boys who follow the
gentlemen to their respective places to speculate upon the luxury. This business goes
on during the greater part of the evening, whereat both audience and performer are
very much distressed’.66 Perhaps one reason why it proved so hard to get rid of the
cushions had to do with an additional function they held inside the theatre: ‘At any
disappointment on the part of the performance, they [the public] instantly seize upon
their cushions and, with singular dexterity, shy them at the offending actor!’.67
Unlike the smoking problem, this matter was resolved in 1852 with the definitive
placement of cushions on the seats.68
These negotiations taking place in public spaces, in this case the theatre, by
authorities, public and artists, locals and foreigners, are indications of the process of
constructing a public sphere with a free exchange of opinions. The implicitly shared
aim was to have a new national, civilised, polity, whose precise definition was far
from shared by all actors and whose achievement was still not in sight. Despite
rules, rhetoric and an outspoken desire of the Mexican upper-classes, Mexican
idiosyncrasy and customs rooted in an ancient culture proved resistant to a
straightforward assimilation of ideas of (European) civilisation.
El Sol, 3 Oct. 1831.
Travels of Anna Bishop, 82.
Ibid., 83.
El Siglo XIX, 17 May 1852. The rental of cushions was not totally abolished, for in 1854 a group of
‘aficionados a la música’ published a request in the paper that the impresarios of the Teatro de Oriente
follow the practice of the Teatro Santa Anna in placing the cushions on the seats in advance. El Siglo
XIX, 26 Apr. 1854.
Behaviour in the Theatre II. The performing public
Defying the civilised role of educated passive listeners, Mexican audiences insisted
on expressing themselves in numerous ways, sometimes even violently, while
attending a performance. Displaying oneself publicly was undoubtedly one important
reason to attend the theatre, including arriving late or leaving early according to the
person’s needs or purpose. This was not unlike what was going on in the theatres of
many European centres, despite the idealised notions to the contrary that Mexicans
However, there is a clear time delay in Mexican theatres with respect to
Europe, not only of a technological nature such as lighting inside the theatres but also
in regard to other aspects of theatrical life—such as the behaviour of the public, the
musical repertoire, and public taste and performance practices. For instance, HallWitt writes of London that ‘Changes in the operatic and elite culture from the mid1820s to the 1850s can account for the rise of quiet listening’.69 In Paris there was a
distinctive change of focus from audience to stage performance: ‘Opera audiences of
the 1830s and 1840s came more to watch the spectacle on the stage than the
spectacle of the boxes’.70 As we shall see, in Mexico, the calls for orderly behaviour
inside and outside the theatres, as well as the issue of silent listening, became an
issue only in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Taking into account this time lag, Mexicans, like Georgian Londoners,
‘regarded themselves as performers in the spectacle, eschewing the clear demarcation
between the stage and the auditorium that seems natural to us’.71 Audiences chatted
among themselves, they strove to see and to be seen, walk around, visit neighbours in
other boxes, and smoke; and they actively manifested their favourable or critical
opinions of the performance. Loud expressions of discontent aimed at performers,
scuffles among the public for diverse reasons and even riots including damage to the
theatre, were relatively common occurrences. The theatre was constructed as an
idealised space of order and civility but the reality was much less refined. This can
also be seen as a metaphor for the regulations the Mexican authorities were issuing
versus everyday behaviour not only in theatres but also in the form of various
political and public disorders. The theatre was not an entity separate from society as
Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts, 227.
Johnson, Listening in Paris, 245.
Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts, 24.
a whole, and it participated in the creation of a public arena for discussion. The
frontiers between performers and audience, between stage and gallery, were not as
definite as we are used to today, as the element of performance extended naturally on
to the pit and boxes.
According to Johnson, in Old Regime Paris ‘attentiveness was a social fauxpas.[…] Circulating, conversing, arriving late, and leaving early were an accepted
part of eighteenth-century musical experience, grudgingly tolerated by some and
positively encouraged by others’. It was also not fashionable to stay for the whole
opera.72 Although, perhaps more akin to the newly-aspirational Mexican middleclass than the aristocratic Parisian elite’s case is what John Rosselli found in the
Italian public’s attitude, which he describes as a ‘relationship with the performers
that has since vanished from the western world’. Rosselli emphasized that the
audience did indeed listen to the solos, and knew when to concentrate their attention
onstage for the passages or arias that interested them. They also showed their
opposition to what they disliked: ‘Audiences listened (when they listened) phrase by
phrase and note by note: a tragic moment brought tears, a well-turned phrase ‘a
murmur of satisfaction, or a short sharp bravo, very encouraging to the performer,
but prolonged enough to interrupt. […] When the work of the performers really
displeased, the audience hissed, screamed, yelled, hooted, and shouted ‘basta!
basta!...’.73 As we explained earlier, Mexican audiences, like those of opera houses
around the globe, were in fact specialised in a few pieces that they knew practically
by heart as a result of their previous knowledge of sheet music performed at their
homes, a knowledge that entitled them to publicly criticise or praise the music
performers while they socialised in the theatre. In all likelihood, the best known arias
were the ones more frequently reproduced in home formats, and the panorama was
not far from that at the King’s Theatre in London a few decades earlier, where
‘opera-goers who gossiped with friends and peered at the audience through their
opera glasses also hissed weak performances, listened to their favourite arias and
ensemble pieces, and appreciated singers’ artistry in singing the arias in new ways
during encore performances’.74
Johnson, Listening in Paris, 31.
According to Rosselli a season consisted in two new operas that, if successful, would be repeated
some 20 times. John Rosselli, Music and Musicians in Nineteenth Century Italy (London: B.T.
Batsford, 1991), 60-62.
Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts, 56.
It is ‘comm’il faut’, commented the Mexican theatre magazine El Apuntador,
to get up three or four scenes before the performance is over. There were two main
reasons for doing this, the first being that men enjoyed putting up a ‘palisade’ to
examine the ‘beau’ on their way out from the boxes, and the second was men exiting
the theatre with ‘the holy end’ of allowing their servants to go to bed earlier.75 This
was what the public was doing during performances inside Mexico City’s main
theatre in 1840 –notice that there is no mention of the performance on stage:
Some listen attentively, others sleep, while others neither listen, nor sleep, nor let
others listen; I cherish the first group, say ‘good night’ to the second and shall enjoy
myself with the third one. Some of these indulge so prosaically in mercantile affairs
that it seems they wish to convert the theatre into the public exchange; they speak of
the price of chilli or cocoa, of the rise and fall of public funds, of the fifteenth
percentile and rating of copper, such that the neighbour wishing to pay attention to
the actors on stage, invariably and despite his many implorations, will find his ear
gifted just the same with a beautiful verse of Bretón as with the news of a bankruptcy
or the purchase of thirty thirds of chilli pasilla.76 (4.3, p. 313)
Not only was silence not achieved inside the hall, but also different degrees of noisy
behaviour in the stalls and boxes, even rioting, produced a racket that frequently
exceeded by a wide margin the orchestrated sounds onstage. The implicit concept of
a shared spectacle taking place all over the theatre is evident in these manifestations.
In the 1830s, for instance, an entertainment for the public in the stalls was to mock
and imitate what was being said or sung on stage right after, or even simultaneously
to, what was performed. This was for some a source of amusement and for others one
of irritation.77 In this case, citizens demanded a more active stance on the part of the
authorities, which were required to act in order to achieve the necessary ‘decorum
and morals’ inside the theatre. The public expected the authorities to punish
uncivilised conduct such as shouting or making vociferous protests. The governor of
the Federal District, José Gómez de la Cortina, duly responded that he was
determined to use all means available to him to stop ‘the disagreeable spectacle of
turbulent outcry and tumultuous bellowing’; thus, from then on, performances should
El Apuntador (1840), 44. Beau in the original in Spanish.
Ibid., 42-3. Spanish playwright and poet Manuel Bretón de los Herreros was probably the most
popular author of spoken drama during the 1830s and good part of the 1840s, and the most frequently
performed in Mexico. His comedies with a strong costumbrista inclination portrayed the miseries of
politics, human beings, and society in general in Spain, which were easily translatable to the Mexican
society of the time.
El Sol, 17 Feb. 1832.
stick to the previously published programme and it was prohibited for theatregoers to
ask actors to perform anything not previously announced.78 The authorities’ position,
with varying degrees of success, was to try to seek more effective regulation of
theatrical events, in order to produce a civilised and regulated entertainment, at least
in principle.79 However, the display of authority seemed half-hearted and the general,
and unremitting, perception of the public was that authorities did not display a strong
enough presence.
Disturbances inside the theatre reached a climax in 1848, when riots broke
out in the National Theatre, causing not only damage to the theatre but public
outrage. Young men of means accompanied by the military and men of lower classes
played the lead in these riots, which included shouting, blows and hisses. The men
yelled asking to see a certain actress and then they left at mid-performance not before
making fun of the theatre’s judge—a professional specifically assigned to resolve
disputes within the theatre—and the police and ‘offending the ladies’ virtue by
shouting crude words ‘only heard in taverns’. The roar escalated to such a height that
the performance had to be cancelled.80 The reporter admitted that the piece chosen
and the performance were particularly bad, but found that the way men acted was
nonetheless reprehensible and illustrated ‘the Mexicans’ civilisation and culture that
without any consideration nor respect for the young ladies that attend the theatre,
make this recreational space a bullfighting arena, thus failing to follow the elemental
rules of good education’.81 Issues of class and gender are brought into this affair: on
the one hand riotous conduct is connected with a low-class space—which by
implication is not the theatre—and on the other, the presence of women is cited as
something that should cause men to regulate their behaviour. Women had been in
theatres before; but now they were made to symbolise the new moral paradigm
required of the civilised society that Mexico was aspiring to be.
Rioting exploded for different reasons. For instance, performers giving
concerts on the same day at different theatres, as in the case of Charles Bochsa and
Henri Herz in 1849, sent followers to whistle at their competitor’s theatre. This
practice likely paralleled an Italian one where, according to John Rosselli, rival
AHDF, Bandos, box 8, file 80, year 1836.
In an earlier regulation authorities prohibited hissing, mocking, insulting both of actors and public.
Strong fines were imposed. AHDF, Diversiones públicas, file 29, 1819.
AHDF, Diversiones públicas, file 157, Teatro, number 39, 8 Apr. 1845 and El Monitor
Republicano, 7 Nov. 1848.
El Monitor Republicano, 7 Nov. 1848.
managers sometimes ‘planted troublemakers’.82 Discontent over the way a
performance was going could and often did result in raucous public disapproval. Less
frequent but more notorious, an additional reason for arguments and even fights
inside the theatre centred on the rivalry between factions supporting different female
singers, as we shall see below in the case of ‘Albinistas’ and ‘Cesaristas’. It is
important to indicate, as Rosselli does for the Italian case during at least the 1860s,
that it is difficult to establish with certitude whether these riots were organised in
advance or were a sincere demonstration of dissatisfaction. Even in the case of
factions supporting rival prima donnas, it is hard to say whether their rivalry was preexistent and represented antagonistic groups within the local elite.83 In any event,
unrest inside theatres was a common occurrence, which despite complaints by the
public and attempts to regulate and control on the part of the authorities, kept coming
back and was an integral part of the musical-theatrical experience.
From 1852 on we notice subtle signs of change in the perception of the
behaviour inside theatres started to appear. For instance, a member of the public
wrote about the arrival and departure of carriages, which formed such a traffic jam at
the entrance of the theatre that wait time became excessively long. The reporter
suggested that carriages should drive round the building as many times as necessary
until their patrons were ready to board. A stronger presence of the authorities, he
insisted, was the only solution to this matter.84 In addition, it becomes apparent that
for at least a section of the audience, the main object of theatre going was becoming
to listen to the performance of works. This process gradually turned the performing
public into a devoted audience. As a consequence the previously almost resigned,
picaresque and colourful tone used when describing the conversations, or
disturbances, in the theatre, disappeared, and was sometimes replaced by
acrimonious recriminations. The unwanted sounds were now named ‘noise’ and
arriving late did not seem to be fashionable any longer. In this subtle new
transformation, women played an active role and became more than simply beautiful
beings to gawk at; and they began to become accountable for their demeanour. A
John Rosselli, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: the role of the impresario,
(Cambridge/ New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 160.
Ibid., 160-1. The claqueurs phenomenon so common in France, and cause of many disturbances
inside theatres, does not seem to exist in Mexico. For claqueurs see Johnson, Listening in Paris, 2467, and Mark Everist, ‘Les chevaliers de lustre’ in Music Drama at the Paris Odéon: 1825-1828,
(Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2002), 129-133.
El Siglo XIX, 28 May 1852.
writer in El Siglo XIX ‘begs the ladies who arrive at the performance when it has
already started, to try to make less noise when they enter’. It is also women who
annoyed spectators with the use of their fans made of shells. The writer suggested
they ought to use fans made of batiste or feathers in order to minimise noise.85
Another writer proposed that women should stop making noise with their armchairs
and fans, while in exchange men should stop walking around and not bother the
ladies with ‘mouthfuls of tobacco’.86
The need to be silent is also associated with the concept of the ‘divine nature’
of music. To talk during the Semiramide overture, for instance, was now named a
‘profanation’, and, according to the critic, it was with ‘silent absorption [and]
concentrated admiration’ that one should listen to it. The performance itself was no
longer an appropriate time for socialising; moreover, ‘it would be good for those who
are much inclined to converse that they do so in their homes or in a café, but not in
the theatre’.87 James Johnson found that at the end of the Old Regime in France: ‘A
new way of listening was emerging […], one more attuned to sentiments and
emotions in the music and more engaged aesthetically than mid-century audiences
had described’.88 Old ways of listening become inadequate. Crying and sobbing were
part of this heightened experience in late eighteenth-century France. ‘A listener more
engaged emotionally was a listener less distracted socially’.89 More than fifty years
later, one can begin to detect similar phenomena in Mexico. In 1852, a Mexican
commentator described his emotional state when he heard the singing of the
celebrated verses ‘Tu che a Dio spiegasti l’ali, o bell’ alma innamorata’ by tenor
Salvi in Lucia di Lammermoor. ‘Laughter froze on our lips, and we began to cry like
a romantic poet’.90 This higher degree of civility was tied to class. The Mexican
national elite, now more confident and established, not only asserted their political
dominion on the high street but also showed their superiority by behaving entirely
differently from the lower classes.
El Siglo XIX, 18 May 1852.
Las Cosquillas, 22 May 1852.
El Siglo XIX, 10 Sept. 1852.
Johnson, Listening in Paris, 81.
Ibid., 86.
Las Cosquillas, 19 May 1852.
Again, the 1853 Theatre Regulations framed this emerging attitude in new
rules to be followed by the Mexican public at large.91 Article 34 is quite explicit in
the new attitude demanded from the public: ‘During the performance, the spectators
shall maintain the silence, decorum and circumspection appropriate to a civilised
public’.92 Rhetoric about public behaviour in theatres had come a long way since the
1830s when the theatre was anything but a place for introspective attention or respect
for the work of art. In effect, however, behaviour in the theatre was a day-to-day
negotiation between regulations, expectations, ideals, customs and idiosyncrasy.
‘Albinistas’ versus ‘Cesaristas’
One of Mexico’s nods to integrating with the European operatic craze was the
passion for prima donnas and the consequent clashes between rival groups
supporting them. Many world-famous Italian female singers visited Mexico between
the 1820s and 1850s, among them Angela Massini, Amalia Majocchi Valtelina
Madame Passi , Carolina Pellegrini, Adela Cesari and Marietta Napoleona Albini, all
of them as part of Filippo Galli’s company in one point or other during the years
1831-7, Anaide Castellan di Giampietro with her own company (1841-1843),
Eufrasia Borghese who formed a company in Mexico in 1845, Anna Bishop in 1849,
Balbina Stefannone as part of Max Maretzek’s company in 1852, and, most famous
of them all, Henrietta Sontag in 1854. From relatively early on, Mexicans had the
opportunity to compare renderings of operas, and the vocal qualities of singers, and
take passionate sides with one diva or another when the occasion demanded it. The
case of Albinistas and Cesaristas helped the authorities to flex their muscle against
privileged groups from the past and to assume the role of mediator between
conflicting groups in an emerging civil society, a crucial role in the new republic.
The rivalry took place between Marietta Albini and Adela Cesari during the
visit of famous bass singer Filippo Galli’s opera company to Mexico (1831-1837).
These two singers, both part of Galli’s company, arrived in Mexico in 1836 with
Mexican diplomat Manuel Eduardo Gorostiza, who brought them at the behest of the
Mexican government in order to reinforce the company’s cast. A mild rivalry already
These regulations should also be situated within the dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna
(1853-1855), who issued several sets of laws aimed at controlling public behaviour, including
toughening censorship, as well as a heavy burden for the population in the shape of new sets of taxes.
AHDF, Bandos, box 21, file 32, op. cit.
existed between the two singers, but it took on new proportions when, for the opera I
Capuleti e i Montecchi by Bellini, the role of Romeo was assigned to Albini. In
operas of the period with one male and one female leading character both assigned to
sopranos, the custom was that the high soprano sang the female heroine while the
lower soprano sang the heroic male role.93
The quarrel broke out because the person in charge of the company while the
impresario Gorostiza was absent, Joaquín Patiño, had given the role of Romeo to
Marietta Albini. Albini was a well-known soprano and the principal voice of
Gorostiza’s company. Romeo was the brilliant main role of Bellini’s opera,
originally written for Giuditta Grisi, while Giulietta was clearly a supporting role.
The supporters of Cesari had raised uproar over this decision because their favourite
diva, Adela Cesari was a contralto, and in their view, the role was hers not only
because of her voice but because it had been promised to her when she was
contracted in Italy. In order to fight their cause, those in favour of Cesari disrupted
the first performance, making it impossible to continue and causing the authorities to
cancel the rest of the run. The defenders of Albini, or ‘Albinistas’, cleverly argued
that it was probably the homonymous opera by Vaccai that had been promised for la
Cesari’s voice, for the role is for contralto. Indeed, this opera by Vaccai not only
assigns the first role to a contralto, but it was none other Cesari who had first
performed the role of Romeo at the Teatro alla Canobbiana in Milan on 31 October
1825, and thus the role that was naturally hers was not that of Bellini’s Romeo.94
What was at stake was the prima donna position, and the Albinistas were
clear about it when they stated that, according to her contract, all the major roles
should be Albini’s, because she possesses ‘brilliant merits’ above any other singer in
the company.95 Even beyond a certain singer’s position, the discussion was about the
authorities’ obligations towards its citizens. The Albinistas presented the, no doubt
self-serving, argument regarding the obligation of the authority to keep the theatre
open, foster performances and respect the public’s rights.
Naomi André, Voicing Gender. Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-NineteenthCentury Italian Opera (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006).
But things were even more complicated than that: Giuditta Grissi, who had premiered Romeo’s role
in Bellini’s opera, was indeed a contralto singing a soprano role.
Municipal Mexicano, 20 Aug. 1836, ‘Representación hecha por la mayoría de los abonados del
teatro, al Exmo. Ayuntamiento de esta capital’.
The public that attends the theatre has the right that new operas be offered them. The
public has the faculty of asking for the ones that please them, principally when the
company is well disposed to provide them; since it equally has the legal power to
hinder, directing themselves to the authorities, that three, four or twenty individuals
disrupt these even for a moment at seeing a well done opera.96 (4.4, p. 313)
The Albinistas put an additional burden on the authorities by claiming to be
concerned with the image Mexico was projecting to European observers, proving the
poor culture of Mexicans who were ready to let go such a worthy singer. The
Albinistas and Cesaristas affair did have an international impact in the form of a duel
that, ironically, was fought between a French citizen, M. de Lisle, the secretary of the
French Legation, and a Mexican, one Captain Cabrera, nowhere other than on the
balcony of the French embassy.97 This incident shows that at least some Europeans
living in Mexico were passionately involved in local affairs rather than simply being
judges of Mexicans’ backwardness.
Supporters of these main groups were apparently moreover divided along
class lines. According to what Guillermo Prieto, man of letters and politician, wrote
in his memoires: ‘Those rich and lewd old men of the first orchestra stalls...with their
big glasses so as not to miss a gesture nor feature; those cavalier servente of matrons,
scoping out the dancers…organised a campaign setting la Cesari, an extremely goodlooking green-eyed girl, with Roman nose, svelte and well-built, against la Albini, in
the distribution of the opera roles’.98 He thus clearly identified the Cesaristas as
upper class, while he, and many other passionate amateurs of lesser wealth and
status, were committed Albinistas. The governor’s advisor, Antonio Madrid, in fact
concurring with Prieto’s appreciation, denied the Cesaristas their ambition to
represent ‘the Public’, and adjudged it the prerogative of the manager of the theatre
to make the necessary artistic decisions. To act against this freedom and force the
manager to take one or another choice, Madrid believed, would incite counterarguments that would eventually compromise the authority’s position.99 The theatre
Mathieu de Fossey, Le Mexique (1857) quoted in Montserrat Galí Boadella, Historias del bello
sexo. La introducción del Romanticismo en México (Mexico: UNAM/Instituto de Investigaciones
Estéticas, 2002), 346-7.
There were also texts of admiration for la Cesari, in a paper named La Lima de Vulcano. A writer
mesmerized by her charms found that she personified the union of beauty and harmony. María de
Jesús Cepeda y Cosío published a piano waltz dedicated to Madame Cesari, who was her mentor, in
Panorama de las señoritas. Periódico pintoresco, científico y literario (1842).
AHDF, Diversiones Públicas, file 59, Teatro, 1836.
commission finally proposed to leave the impresario ‘in complete freedom to present
or not the opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi’.
The Albinistas and Cesaristas incident illustrates the involvement of Mexican
society with opera on several levels: literary, social, political and artistic.100 A
Mexican civil society, which came alive through opera, took the stage to perform an
operatic drama through a newly acquired freedom in a civil society. Parties involved
in this controversy empowered the city authorities by assigning them a new role: to
arbitrate between citizens’ diverse interests.
Mexicans’ Operatic Culture
Gradually more serious criticisms began to stem from an increasingly stable and yet
diversified operatic culture in Mexico. Not only were the authorities subject to
criticisms, but so were companies and impresarios touring the country. Since the
1830s Mexican critics, acting as leaders of opinion, had been critical of opera
performances for a variety of reasons including cuts in operas, endless repetitions of
the same works, bad quality in singing, either in main parts or choruses, assignment
of parts to the wrong voice-types, wrong characterisation of leading singers,
inadequate stage settings and poor printed translations of libretti into Spanish (sold as
an aid to performances in Italian).
The premiere of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Il crociato in Egitto in Mexico, by
Filippo Galli’s company in 1837, offers an instance of disturbance due to cuts. This
The matter was also the subject of poems distributed in the theatre and published in the
newspapers. Guillermo Prieto wrote a long romantic poem entitled ‘A la Albini’ (For Albini), whose
last verses, not coincidentally, mentioned the name of Bellini associated to that of his muse:
Your sweet, your pleasant, your placid song,
Arouses my spell, my tender emotions.
Rival of the graces, precursor of love,
One can already hear your angelic voice […]
If you kindly play the voluptuous voice
That arduously instills intense passion,
The bosom instantly embraces itself in your fire,
It loses its sedateness, and grows drunk on love. […]
Oh Memory, Reach my muse of time,
And keep the glory of your song immortal;
Your name, and the name of the great Bellini,
Oh, magical Albini! Resound in peace. (4.5, p. 313-4)
Enrique Olavarría y Ferrari, Reseña histórica del teatro en México 1538-1911, vol. I, prol. by
Salvador Novo, 3rd ed. (Mexico: Porrúa, 1961), 344-5. Most of the contemporary Mexican public still
remembered that Albini premiered the main role of one of Mexicans’ dearest operas, Norma, in 1831.
opera, premiered at La Fenice in Venice in 1824 was immediately successful in Italy
and then in France.101 The Mexican public was thrilled with the work but the
performance caused considerable tensions. During its second performance, on 28
October, the public reacted with outrage upon realising that some of the original
scenes had been cut ‘because the opera was too long’, or so the critic assumed since
there was no official explanation from the director. When noting that some of the
parts were cut, the audience expressed its discontent by suddenly interrupting with
applauses, hissing, shouts and stamping on the gallery floor. When the chorus
continued to sing throughout these boisterous manifestations, the public decided to
intensify their expressions of discontent by ‘singing’ along. The critic poetically
described this collective sonority as follows: ‘soon one could only hear a spectacular
and unhurried roaring, such as the one produced by a volcano just before erupting’.
The chorus, defeated in its attempt to finish its designated music, decided to leave,
but one brave singer, upon leaving, confronted the public with the following words:
‘One word. We are treated like this because we are Americans; thank you’.102 The
singer is implicitly complaining about what he perceived as discrimination against
local performers, ‘americanos’ vis-à-vis European, Italian, performers. The public
replied by whistling at him and shouting that he ought to be put in jail for addressing
the audience in such a manner. The narrator’s corollary to the story was that the
uproar had nothing to do with foreigners or nationals, nor with being disrespectful to
the chorus, but rather was rooted in misgivings over the way the opera had been
arbitrarily cut. In addition, he advised the director to announce in advance any
possible cuts to the opera and also to edit the respective section in the booklet
(presumably the Spanish translation of the libretto) if he wished to avoid the public’s
The reprimand to the Italian director Filippo Galli was the Mexicans’ proud
defence of their operatic culture which required following a libretto in its entirety,
I could not find the date of the first performance but most likely was on the 25 (Thursday) or 26
(Friday) October. See also Mark Everist, ‘Meyerbeer’s “Il crociato in Egitto”: mélodrame, Opera,
Orientalism,’ Cambridge Opera Journal 8, No. 3 (1996), 215-250. In this exhaustive study of the
sources and composition of the opera’s libretto, Everist persuasively argues for a nuanced vision of
the orientalism of this work. The Mexican episode as portrayed in the press argues nothing about the
opera’s libretto or music, other than finding the opera ‘extremely beautiful’; but the discussion around
the second performance is certainly significant of centre-periphery issues.
‘Americans’ was used in the sense of people born on the American continent and not as in our
contemporary use of the term which equates it exclusively with citizens of the United States.
El Recreo de Las Familias (1837), 79-80.
and did not allow for any unexpected changes. Or, more exactly, it was a reminder to
the Italian director that Mexicans, despite being distracted with a thousand
happenings inside the hall, did indeed listen during performances and were capable
of noticing a shorter version in a second performance, as well as, more generally, of
a reminder of the Mexican public’s operatic culture. At the same time, it constituted
a call to attention to national performers, in this case the chorus, to avoid yielding to
these practices. In effect there was a national divide between the main roles of the
opera assigned to the singers brought by the Italian companies, and the chorus and
orchestra which were hired locally. This is an intriguing, paradoxical, and early case
of Mexicans from the elite supporting an uncivilised act, according to contemporary
criticisms of misbehaviour in the theatre, but in the service of a patriotic cause: the
defence of the—artistic—rights of the Mexican public.
The issue of a poorly translated libretto came up with special virulence again
during the stay of Max Maretzek’s company in 1852. A specialist critic, ‘Fortún’,
reported on the ‘detestable and barbarous’ translation into Spanish of the libretto of
La Favorita. This critic alluded to the Mexicans’ high cultural level in a veiled call to
attention to those (European or American) visitors who considered the country
uncivilized. ‘One should not imagine we think much of it [the bad translation]; but
Mexico is already at a certain cultural stage where is almost an insult to make the
Mexican presses print such extensive nonsense from the Mexican press. The
translator does not know what is prose, nor verse; he does not know Italian or
Spanish, and he even lacks common sense’.104
Mexicans became disinclined to accept uncritically everything that came from
these companies. They knew they were acting in a similar way to the European
public and critics when they criticized some of the companies’ and impresarios’
practices, and demanded necessary changes. At the same time impresarios took space
in the press to air their points of view, to defend the way they did things according to
European practice and, in some cases, to pontificate to the Mexican public. This was
a way not only to justify their doings but also to reaffirm their (European) superiority
in neo-colonial terms by demonstrating the public’s lack of culture, as the case of
Max Maretzek demonstrates. When some operagoers sent letters to Maretzek
El Siglo XIX, 16 June 1852. ‘Fortún’ wrote that the translator had even left some places blank
where he did not know how to translate. He considered that he would have done a better service to the
opera leaving the whole libretto blank.
demanding that his company performs ‘La Favorita complete, as written by
Donizetti for the Parisian theatre’.105 Maretzek was assuming Mexico as a ‘cultural
periphery’, to use Nelly Richard’s term, where he could lecture about opera
adaptation in Parisian theatres, implicitly showing the ignorance of those formulating
that request, and demonstrating why it was impossible to comply with their wishes.
‘The necessary and recognized custom of abbreviating and reducing those
compositions written precisely for the Parisian theatres, by accommodating them to
the Italian stage, is well known. In this way they satisfy the different demands of
different nationalities and other particular circumstances in each of the countries
where they are to be performed’. Maretzek gives as an example Guillaume Tell by
Rossini, whose four acts were reduced to three in Germany and Italy; Le siège de
Corinthe ‘which has suffered much variation and abbreviation for the Italian theatre
even changing its name to Maometto II; and regarding Donizetti, Maretzek quotes
Les Martyrs (changed to Polyeucte in Italy), and also the changes the composer made
to Dom Sébastien and La Favorita for adaptation for the Italian public’. After this
long list, Maretzek adds a further claim on the subject of performance practice by
asserting that ‘the company is staging the opera exactly the same way his company is
accustomed to do it in Milan, London, Havana, New York, etc.’106 This response was
in part the impresario’s exasperated reaction to the, perhaps unexpected, Mexican
public’s continuous expression of their opinion and requests to the impresario
regarding which singers they would like to hear in which roles, what operas they
wanted and which singers the public considered should be hired, and complaints
about translation of libretti.
The year after Maretzek’s visit, the 1853 revision to the Theatre Regulations
returned to the matter of cutting theatrical works by demanding that the impresario
oversees that no dramas or opera scores were mutilated for ‘they shall be represented
as they are written and as it is the habit in Europe’s great theatres’. To this effect, the
regulations established severe penalties.107 The mention of European practices opens
up once again the question of an idealised model of Europe in operation. Certain
opera composers, such as Mozart, were indeed in the process of forming part of the
It was premiered on 2 December 1840 at the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique in Paris.
El Siglo XIX, 31 May 1852.
AHDF, Bandos, box 21, file 32.
sacrosanct musical canon in Europe.108 But Mexicans’ beloved bel canto Italian
repertoire was indeed adapted, cut, translated, refashioned into a variety of genres,
and a long list of etceteras to fit the public’s, theatres’, regulations’, impresarios’ and
artists’ needs and whims as much or more in Europe as in Mexico. Many Mexicans
travelled and experienced operatic performances first-hand in the Old World and
therefore the probably knew of the malleability of operas in those ‘great theatres’ to
which the Mexican Regulations referred.109 An idealised European musical world,
known to be inexact in reality, was apparently needed as a model to set the standards
high for Mexico’s newly-independent theatrical life.
On the one hand the public demanded a performance suitable to their operatic
and general culture and customs and on the other impresarios defended their
decisions, many times for financial reasons disguised as superior cultural reasons.
This give and take characterizes the multifaceted relationship between the European
music world in the form of music, ideas, practices and artists, and the Mexican elite
positioning itself as cultural consumers constructing their own musical identity.
Opera reigns supreme
The musical history of nineteenth-century independent Mexico is inextricably linked
to that of opera. It was José Antonio Gómez’s dream as well as that of the musical
youth of the 1820s, writes Gerónimo Baqueiro Fóster, that opera should take hold on
Mexican soil.110 From the 1820s on, the inhabitants of Mexico City were almost
Katharine Ellis, ‘Rewriting “Don Giovanni”, or “The Thieving Magpies”,’ Journal of the Royal
Musical Association 119, No. 2 (1992), 215-250, where the author demonstrates that Véron’s
production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Paris in 1834 failed for not addressing the canonicity of
Mozart, which the critics held against him.
The topic of the instability of operatic texts in nineteenth-century Europe has been subject to a
myriad of studies of which some deal with concrete performance and reception studies. Mark Everist
has accurately described this instability in these terms:’[T]he study of opera in the first half of the
nineteenth century is beset by the perennial challenge of unstable texts and rapidly shifting patterns of
performance that make discussions of a "work" substantially more difficult than would be the case if
the subject were a key-board miniature or string quartet:’, ‘Lindoro in Lyon: Rossini’s Le Barbier de
Séville,’ Acta Musicologica 64, Fasc. 1 (1992), 50. The article is a comprehensive study about the first
performance in French of Il barbiere di Siviglia in 1821; Philip Gossett, Divas and Scholars.
Performing Italian Opera, ([Chicago]: The University of Chicago Press, 2006) wrote a magnum opus
regarding opera performance reception of bel canto up to Verdi with first-hand accounts of the author;
and Benjamin Walton, Rossini in Restoration Paris. The Sound of Modern Life (Cambridge/New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), a fascinating study on the Parisian reception of Rossini’s
operas year by year between 1824 to 1829, which explain the enormous popularity of Rossini’s music
and its gradual decay in the French capital’s taste.
Baqueiro Fóster, Historia de la música, 122.
constantly exposed to Italian opera with the presence of visiting companies as well as
by companies formed in the country which included foreign singers. The main opera
companies to visit or establish themselves in Mexico during the first half of the
nineteenth century were those of Manuel García (1827-9), the first visiting company,
and one which left an indelible trace in the musical community’s collective memory,
Filippo Galli (1831-7), Anaide Castellan-Roca (1841-2), Eufrasia Borghese (1845)
Anna Bishop-CharlesBochsa (1849-1850), Max Maretzek (1852-53), René Masson
(1854), including the singer Henrietta Sontag, and Pedro Carvajal (1854).111 These
companies were largely responsible for the dissemination of the bel canto repertoire
that came to be the favourite of the Mexican public for decades to come. Opera’s
supremacy, even over spoken drama, went unchallenged until well beyond the
middle of the nineteenth century. By the 1850s, operatic performances were still
preferred over instrumental concerts. As a reporter wrote: ‘A concert can never have
the same interest as an opera: the dramatic glitter is missing’.112 The swift
accommodation made by the Mexican establishment of the needs generated by
Italian operas, including larger orchestras, sets, designs, costumes, etc. was truly
remarkable and is a reflection of its popularity.
Still within Spanish dominion, the New Coliseum featured some complete
Italian operas, beside mixed programmes. Among them were: Il tutore burlato by
Domenico Cimarosa (1805) and Il barbiere di Siviglia by Giovanni Paisiello (1806).
Before opera became popular, Spanish sainetes or tonadillas escénicas including
singing, dancing and acting, with actors and musicians of Spanish origin as the main
participants, were well liked. A Royal Order dictated by the Spanish king Carlos IV
in 1799 prohibited the representation of works in languages other than Spanish in the
Mexican Coliseum. This was the reason why all libretti from Italian operas sung
from that year up to June 1827 were translated into Spanish. This situation began to
change, not without irony, with the arrival of the first truly Italian opera company in
Mexico City, that of the Spaniard Manuel García.
In the year of 1839, when no foreign companies arrived in Mexico, students of José Antonio
Gómez sang I Capuleti e i Montechi in the Teatro Principal, and students from Caballero and
Beristáin’s school presented La Sonnambula in whose main role was Mrs. Elizaliturri. During 1840
several operatic concerts took place were María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío played an important role.
El Siglo XIX, 2 May 1854.
Manuel García and the expansion of bel canto opera in Mexico
Before the arrival of Manuel García, the first famous and experienced opera
company to visit the country, there were two active opera companies composed of
Mexican and Spanish singers resident in Mexico—Victorio Rocamora’s and Andrés
del Castillo’s. Both presented operas in Spanish according to the current regulation
that ruled it as the obligatory language for theatre performances. Some of Rossini’s
operas were performed in Mexico’s coliseum before the arrival of García: El barbero
de Sevilla (1823), La italiana en Argel (1824), Tancredo (1825), La urraca ladrona
(1825), Otello (1825), in their Spanish guises. Operas by other composers such as
Esteban Cristiani’s El Solitario (written by the Italian composer in Mexico) and the
opera by Manuel Corral, a Spanish composer, also living in Mexico, Los gemelos.
Most concerts however were not full operas but mixed concerts including operatic
arias. The genres of spoken drama and opera alternated in the theatre. The fact that
all operas were performed in Spanish and by the same singers that sang tonadillas
and sainetes, made those first decades a transitional time leading to the dominance of
the European opera.
Spanish tenor Manuel García and his company arrived in Mexico City the
same year that Claudio Linati introduced the first lithographic press: 1826. García
had spent a year touring the United States before getting to Mexico.113 The wellknown Italian tenor spent several seasons in New York. Both in that city and in
Mexico City, García premiered Rossini’s works in Italian. Prior to his arrival, these
works were sung in English or French in the U.S.A., and in Mexico, in Spanish.114
García was a key figure for the establishment of the continental craze of Italian opera
in America. After his company’s visit, Italian troupes flooded the country and opera
emerged as an expected and necessary feature in Mexican theatres. It is thus
important to probe into the relevant aspects of García’s sojourn.
His complete name was Manuel del Pópulo Vicente Rodriguez García, his father’s was Rodríguez
but his mother was widowed, and remarried a García who gave her children his last name.
For the U.S.A. part of the tour see Katherine K. Preston, Opera on the Road. Traveling Opera
Troupes in the United States, 1825-60 (Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001): 101-106.
The language issue also came up in the U.S.A. were some critics also considered that the music
should be sang in English for the ‘our own language [is being] neglected’ and they also expressed
their opinion that ‘the musical form [of Italian opera] was an inferior one and unworthy to take place
of “the old English tragedy and comedy” on the American stage’; Preston, Opera, 105. James
Radomski in his influential and comprehensive study Manuel García (1775-1882). Chronicle of the
Life of a bel canto Tenor at the Dawn of Romanticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000),
includes a chapter devoted to García’s Mexican tour: ‘10. Mexico, 1826-1829,’ 211-243.
Manuel García founded an opera company in New York with whom he
produced the American premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 1826 as well as the
premiere of many of Rossini’s operas. As Katherine K. Preston has shown, García’s
troupe was initially very well received by all classes of the New York society, and
his tour even had an impact on the fashion of the city. Nevertheless, ‘[t]he
fascination of the New York public with García’s troupe was short-lived. A great
deal of their early success apparently was due to the sheer novelty of their
undertaking, for after only two months of performances, it was apparent that New
Yorkers were not yet prepared to support an Italian company on a regular basis’.115
Consequently, García’s company suffered from a lack of funds. This was probably
the reason why he decided to travel on to Mexico, whose public was eager to attend
performances from a genuine Italian opera company.
The Mexican colonel Luis Castrejón, a man with a passion for spoken and
sung drama, took on the negotiations required to bring García’s troupe to Mexico.
Castrejón was the manager of both theatres of the capital: the Principal and that of
Los Gallos (or the Provisional Theatre). The first was run-down and in such dire
need of repair that it was not possible to finance a visit as projected, so Castrejón had
to present García in the less elegant and functional Provisional Theatre. The situation
was adverse to the enterprise from the beginning, because the city council was not
convinced of the advisability of inviting the company to Mexico because of the high
prices that the impresario was planning to charge for tickets—because he needed
funds to remodel the theatre—and because of protectionism: the authorities were
against ‘foreigners tak[ing] away the money so necessary in Mexico, no matter how
great an artist they might be’.116 In addition, the political situation was fragile since
Mexicans were struggling with interventionist forces supported both from inside and
outside the country, including an expedition organised by Spain to recapture the
country. In January 1827, a conspiracy led by priest Joaquín Arenas together with
other priests, military personnel and government officials, was attempting to bring
Mexico back into the Spanish fold. The conspiracy was uncovered, and its
participants were executed or expelled from the country. Amid these unfavourable
circumstances, García and his company arrived in Mexico City at the end of June of
Preston, Opera on the Road, 105.
Olavarría y Ferrari, Reseña histórica, 228.
that same year. Despite high drama on the new republic’s front, Mexican amateurs
and musicians eagerly awaited the arrival and performance of García’s troupe.117
On 29 June 1827, the Mexican public heard Il barbiere di Siviglia sung in
Italian for the first time. García presented this and other operas to a full audience.
However, with the Arena’s conspiracy still fresh in the popular mind and with antiSpanish feelings running high, the tables turned against him. The main objection to
García was the fact that his company sang the operas in Italian. According to critics,
Mexicans could not be content listening to the singing without understanding the
words. Moreover, the public complained that if García was a Spaniard, he should
sing in Spanish. In fact, the Spanish tenor had left Spain a couple of decades before
and had gone to live in France and Italy, never to return to his home country.
García’s relation with Spain had faded by the time he visited Mexico.118
Although there were supporters of García’s quest to present operas in the
original language, there was unwavering opposition from one sector of the Mexican
public. ‘We do not have in Mexico’, the critic from the Águila Mexicana wrote, as
many people ‘who understand Italian or who would be satisfied only with the
pleasure of the singing and the music alone, without understanding what is being
said, as in Paris and London’.119 The issue became one of popular versus refined
taste: an article in the newspaper El Sol begged the impresario, ‘in the name of good
taste’, never to alter the original language of a composition. As he wrote: ‘An opera
translated from Italian to Spanish or any other language becomes severed from the
lyrics, and in consequence, the same is the case with the music, to which the author
had accommodated Italian periods, accents and sounds together with the rhythm and
artistic profile’.120 The more musical approach of the writer of El Sol was overridden
by those demanding to listen to the operas sung in Spanish, as was customary.121
Facing this pressure, García yielded to the Mexican public and presented his own
Ibid., 231.
His prominent operatic career had since thrived in Italy where he arrived in 1811, and then in Paris
and London. García was a mature and experienced 52 year-old composer, singer and impresario by
the time he reached Mexico.
El Águila Mexicana, 14 July 1827.
El Sol, July 1827, quoted in Baqueiro Fóster, Historia de la música, 131-2.
As James Radomski, Manuel García, op. cit.: 211-212, has rightly pointed out, ‘García became a
pawn in the debates between the two principal parties: the yorkinos (named after York rite Masonry)
and the escoceses (after Scottish rite Masonry).’ El Sol voiced the first group’s interests and El Aguila
Mexicana the second. The yorkinos, the highest layer of economic power within the elite, was later to
ally itself with the conservative party while the second, composed mainly of merchants, military
officers and members of liberal professions, allied itself with the liberal party.
early operas and more recent ones such as El poeta calculista in Spanish, and also
translated parts of Otello, Il barbiere di Siviglia and La gazza ladra. In addition, he
appeased the Mexican public by hiring local singers who had sung Italian opera in
Spanish before, such as Andrés del Castillo and Rita González de Santa Marta.
García thus managed to extend his visit to the Mexican capital for a year and a half,
playing in the theatre and in private halls such as La Lonja and Minería.122
Hostility towards García began to grow at the end of 1827 when his company
got into trouble both with the government and the church: firstly for not providing
the programme in advance as was required by law, and secondly when Garcia
proposed to sing a Salve to the Virgin of Remedies in the theatre. The Church
forcefully opposed this act and the city council stood by the church in the matter.123
Within a prevailing intolerant climate against Spain, on 20 December 1827 the
Mexican Congress issued a decree expelling all Spanish citizens from Mexico. The
law had plenty of exceptions that could be invoked in order to evade its rigour and
García used these with the purpose of staying longer in the country. At the end of
1828, however, García and his troupe decided to leave. As a justification for the
foreseeable disappointment of the operatic community, the government made clear in
El Sol that it was Garcia’s decision to ask for a passport in order to continue his tour,
and not a measure taken by the authorities.124
García’s tour raised questions that were not entirely compatible but likewise
not entirely foreign to one another, including the desire to fit into a larger world, but
at the same time, not feeling entirely at ease on a larger stage. In musical terms this
tension expressed itself as the rejection of operatic musical performances in a
language other than the familiar Spanish. The fact that Garcia had been born in
Spain, even though he had made is career elsewhere, nonetheless struck chord with
the newly defined Mexicans’ hurt national pride and conflict-ridden political
circumstances that led to the decree of expulsion of Spaniards from the Mexican
territory. Despite all these cultural undercurrents, Manuel García ultimately
succeeded in contributing to Mexico’s musical culture by consolidating Italian opera
as the preferred genre and mode of theatrical musical performance.
Águila Mexicana, 20 Nov. 1827.
AHDF, Diversiones Públicas, file 46, 1827; El Sol, 18 and 20 June 1828.
El Sol, 1 Mar. 1828.
Rossini and the reception of bel canto in Mexico
When Andrés del Castillo’s company performed Tancredi at the National Theatre in
1826, José María Heredia, the poet and music critic of journal El Iris, had little to say
other than the following: ‘On the nights of last Saturday and Sunday, the opera
Tancredi by Rossini was performed. There could be hardly anybody who had not
listened to some parts of this beautiful composition before, for it is usually lying
around wherever there is a piano’.125 As we have stated above, until the midnineteenth century the operatic repertory frequently made its way first in domestic
formats before the premiere of that opera took place in the theatres, and Rossini was
the favourite composer in Mexican home arrangements during the 1820s and 1830s.
This was no different from France where, according to Benjamin Walton, it was
home music-making that represented the principal experience of Rossini for a large
proportion of the population, a fact that can be accounted for in the innumerable
published arrangements published at that time.126
By the 1840s, opera—including Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable—had even
conquered the Mexican capital’s cathedral during Holy Week, as this quotation from
the appalled American Protestant Brantz Mayer proves:
The ritual [inside the Church] is Indian, rather than civilized or intellectual. The
show is tasteless and barbaric. The altars display a jumble of jewellery, sacred
vessels and utensils of the precious metals mixed up with glass through which is
reflected the tints of colored water, and the whole is overlaid with fruits and
flowers.[…]; and in place of the airs of Mozart and Haydn, you have the music of
the latest opera, and the favourite morceaux from Robert le Diable.127
Rossini and later Bellini and Donizetti’s sway over Mexico was complete in the
years following García’s tour. When García presented his own opera, Semiramis, one
critic said the public was bored by it and that they ‘missed those sublime passages of
Rossini, which involuntarily move and excite the emotions of the spectator’.128
El Iris 11, 15 Apr. 1826, 115-6. Newspaper El Sol attests to the early offer of music dealers
offering complete or sections of Rossini’s operas: 6 Apr.1824, 26 May 1825, 9 Mar. and 1 June 1826.
Walton, Rossini in Restoration Paris, 9-10.
Mayer, Mexico as It Was, 151-2. Robert le diable was only premiered in Mexico in 1 October 1852
by Max Maretzek’s company. El Siglo XIX, 6 Oct. 1852. Although in many occasions before parts of
this opera were sung in Mexican theatres.
El Correo de la federación mexicana, 9 May 1828, as quoted by Radomski, Manuel García, 220.
Before the Spanish tenor’s tour, judgments about Rossini’s music were
divided. A critic in El Sol had expressed the opinion that in L’Italiana and Il
barbiere: ‘We could not find even one aria which was placed in the right place of the
passionate scene, as we do in Il barbiere by Paisiello’. He also found that Rossini
was too cerebral, for he sacrificed ‘the pleasure of the ears for the enjoyments of
reason’ and claimed that this same defect had been pointed out by critics in Italy, a
fact even the composer had to admit.129 In contrast, for the critic of the Águila
Mexicana, Rossini harmoniously combined depth and grace. The article, written in
1824, employs terms that indirectly acknowledge musical debates current in Europe,
concerning the opposed musical terms Italian/German: ‘I finish by saying that
Rossini is the incomparable composer, who has accomplished the combination of the
German harmony, passion and depth together with the melody and Italian taste,
embellishing both with his original, epoch-making fecundity and grace’.130
Awareness of the terms in which Rossini’s music was discussed in Europe
became especially apparent in 1832, when during the tour of the opera company
Filippo Galli in Mexico, the rhetoric of the twin styles Italian-German (RossiniBeethoven) taking place in France or Germany was fully acknowledged. The paper
El Sol published an article by ‘Un aficionado al cantar italiano’ (a fan of Italian
singing) who expressed his detailed opinion about Mahometto II by Rossini.131 The
aficionado found that the ideas of the trios ‘Pria svenar’ and ‘In questi estremi
istanti’ were very original, and the latter particularly displayed ‘all of Rossini’s taste
and Beethoven’s depth’.132 In this case the writer sees the ‘twin styles’ rather as a
El Sol, 8 Mar. 1825.
Águila Mexicana, 13 Sept. 1824.
Maometto II was revised as Le siège de Corinthe in 1826 for its Paris performance.
El Sol, 26 June 1832. My emphasis. Filippo Galli premiered this opera, in the role of Mahometto,
on 3 Dec.1820 at the Theatre of San Carlo in Napoli. Scholar Nancy Vogeley (, ‘Italian Opera in Early
National Mexico,’ Modern Language Quarterly 57, No. 2 [1996]) has claimed that in early Mexico,
‘Italian opera provided the new interests with the vocabulary they needed to state their difference from
Spanish culture and to legitimate their control,’ 281. I would not entirely subscribe this claim because
of the debate that I have shown was taking place within the elite regarding the role of opera and the
prevailing sense of opera as integration to Europe, according to the sources, and not as a particularly
means of resistance to Spain. And however attractive it might be in its postcolonial explicative
nuances, I would not subscribe at all the following claim for lack of ground on primary sources: ‘[The
operas’] plots, which often relied on conflict between Christian and Moor, also helped Mexicans
reflect on their own history, during which they had been judged idolatrous and racially inferior by
their European conquerors. Operatic language, which highlighted the categories of ‘civilized’ and
‘barbaric’ permitted liberals and conservatives alike, whether criolos or mestizos of the Mexican elite
classes, to rethink Spanish uses of the terms; they could shift ont Indian peoples in the peripheral areas
and an uneducated popularce in the capital the label of ‘barbaric,’ thereby cleansing themselves of
inferior colonial status,’ 281. Regarding Vogeley’s ready disposition to interpret the Mexicans’
reaction to Mahometto II in post-colonial terms is hindered by her own honest recognition that: ‘The
fusion than a dichotomy. This fact worked apparently to create an enhanced Mexican
reception of Rossini, and not as a disadvantage. In addition, the article alluded to the
fact that Rossini had evidently read the history of the sultan of Constantinople in
order to construct the characters of Mahometto and Anna. This fact, pointed out the
critic, differentiated this opera from previous ones by Rossini, where he had followed
only his own flow of music. Furthermore, it became clear that here Rossini
demanded a more knowledgeable listener in order to fully apprehend the opera’s
subtleties: ‘It is necessary for the ear to become quite accustomed to what specialists
have called the profound and sublime genre in order to perceive the great beauties of
this composition’.133
Once the process of establishing the canon was well in place in Europe,
Beethoven became ‘incontrovertibly “heroic”’ and Rossini became ‘romantically
inaudible’ in France in the 1830s, to employ Benjamin Walton’s apt terms.134 In
Mexico, Rossini reigned supreme for many decades to come both in the general
public’s perception and in terms of critics’ taste. The endowment of Rossini’s music
with this ‘deeper’—Beethovenian—quality, granted the Italian composer a safe
passage in the eyes of a sector of the Mexican professional community conversant
with European trends, a very small but not negligible sector of the music community.
At the same time, the general public was delighted rather by Rossini’s passionate
music, the opera stories and the magic created when companies embarked upon his
music. The ‘catchy tunes and bouncy melodies’ that Walton found were ‘redirected
to the negative end of the twin styles’ while in Mexico they dominated most of
Rossini’s reception. Rossini graciously gave way to Bellini and Donizetti during the
1830s and 1840s without losing a special position in Mexican taste, both at home and
in the theatre, and for most of the remainder of the century.135
Nevertheless, by the 1840s Bellini was the Mexicans’ favourite. After
Bellini’s death, a note in the papers stated that: ‘Most of Bellini’s operas have been
performed in Mexico, and we believe many years will pass before the impressions
message Mexican audiences received from Mahometto II, when they saw it for the first time, is
unclear,’ 282.
El Sol, 26 June 1832. There is no acknowledgement of the librettist in the newspaper report.
Walton, Rossini, 235.
The critic of El Sol of 13 Apr. 1826, however, maintained that it was a pity that new singers who
arrived in Mexico devoted themselves to L’italiana in Algeri, a composition that had been ‘too
superficially dealt with and too corrupted and that has no longer any attraction for most of the public’.
caused by the sweetness of Pirata and the sublimity of Norma, weaken’.136 Norma
was premiered at Milan’s La Scala in 1831 and only five years later in Mexico. This
opera was probably the most performed and popular one in Mexico in the middle
decades of the nineteenth century, to the extent that Bellini’s popularity affected
Donizetti’s reception adversely for a short while. When Donizetti’s Beatrice di
Tenda was premiered in Mexico, part of the unfavourable opinion was due to direct
comparison with Bellini:
With the exception of various pieces which are reminiscent of Bellini [the opera
Beatrice di Tenda] isn’t one of those that have principally contributed to the glory of
the great composer [Donizetti]. One can find within it a good conception next to a
bad one many times over, a brilliant inspiration and one of feeling next to a bit which
make it languid and dull and at times not so pleasant.137 (4.6, p. 314)
After the untimely death of Bellini, however, a Mexican critic believed that Donizetti
was ‘the only one who has filled the void left by the unfortunate Bellini, if it is
possible to fill it’.138
Such was the influence of Rossini and his successors’ model that the music of
composers such as Mozart or Verdi was measured against them when (re)released in
Mexico. Attilio Valtellina, a bass singer who came with Anna Bishop’s company and
stayed on in Mexico to start his own company, was the first to present a complete
Verdi opera, Ernani, in a Mexican theatre.139 The critic for the conservative
newspaper El Universal, concentrated on Hugo’s story to dismiss it: ‘The argument
is really nothing more than a weaving together of unlikely rubbish, as most operas
tend to be and very especially those which are taken from extravagant masterpieces,
daughters of the delirious imagination of Victor Hugo.140 In addition, the critic
disliked the fact that theatrical effect seemed to be Verdi’s main aim in his
deployment of larger ensembles: trios, quartets, quintets and large choruses.
Verdi’s music was also criticised from a musical point of view via the claim
that he attempted to revolutionise harmony in music when it had already been
achieved by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. In short, Verdi, who was endowed of a
‘colossal genius’ had come to the world ‘too late’. Inevitably, the critic here referred
El Apuntador, 308, 314.
Ibid., 320.
Ibid., ‘Donizetti,’ 340.
In Mexico’s newspapers, the opera was spelled Hernani, like Hugo’s play.
El Universal, 17 May 1850.
to the closeness of bel canto composers with the Mexican public, which he found
lacking in Verdi and, in short, while admitting the richness, magnificence and
grandeur that Verdi’s music produces, he judged that ‘one cannot find in it [Verdi’s
music] those ravishing portions, as tender as they are passionate, which shine so
much for instance in Bellini’s operas’. It was not possible to hum a melody after an
opera by Verdi as one could do with Rossini or Bellini. Two commentaries in the
papers consider that Verdi’s music did not prompt the emotional response that
Rossini’s did. The latter’s music was listened to with ‘tears of feeling and
tenderness’, which was not possible with the former’s.141 In its turn, El Siglo XIX
pointed out that Ernani’s music can never ‘captivate the senses nor enrapture as can
Norma or La sonnambula’.142 This phenomenon reinforces the idea that in the 1850s
a change took place in Mexican sensibility, accompanied by a growing importance of
emotion in musical reception, which was framed within an increasing need for order
and silence inside the theatre. At the same time the adored Italian trinity of
Rossini/Bellini/Donizetti played such a key role in the establishment of that it was
difficult to let them go in favour of new Italian models.
Mozart also suffered in its comparison with the Mexican bel canto Italian
composers. His Don Giovanni, was (re)premiered in Mexico on June 1852 by
Maretzek’s opera company. Maretzek’s performance was announced as a premiere.
Manuel García had premiered it 24 years before, on 23 June 1828, but no one seemed
to remember or mention the fact. Back then, the commentary in the press was
directed toward how well the singers performed, and not at the piece itself.143 A
quarter of century later the positions were reversed. El Siglo XIX commented that
despite acknowledging some valuable arias, ‘the public received the opera coldly and
was not very pleased. Some enthusiasts of German music applauded wildly, but they
were clearly in the minority’. The critic explained that Mozart’s music was not for
most people and that it sounded outmoded. He could not help bring up the fact that
Italian music, unlike Mozart, ‘was so melodious, so tender, and so expressive’.144
There was uneasiness in the conservative and liberal press as some critics were
clearly concerned with the bad image Mexico would project towards the rest of the
El Universal, 18 May 1850.
El Siglo XIX, 21 May 1850.
Radomski, Manuel García, 227-8. Except for a poem deifying Mozart written by Secretary Lucas
Alamán published in El Sol, which Radomski transcribes.
El Siglo XIX, 25 June 1852.
world for disliking Mozart. For instance the critic ‘Nadie’ felt ashamed of the
public’s lack of sensibility toward Mozart as it hissed his masterpiece.145 This
opinion suggests an awareness of the European process of canonisation of the
Austrian composer, whereas the following description recognises a line of continuity
between Mozart and Rossini but undoubtedly reaffirms the latter’s superiority. The
critic from El Universal explained in musical terms why Mozart caused such a
commotion in his own time and in the decades immediately after his death, when
Don Giovanni reached the status of masterpiece; but he also clarified why that status
could not be achieved in 1852. The critic argued that Rossini took Mozart as a model
and exceeded him on all counts; he stressed the continuity between the two
composers by wrongly pointing out that the day of Mozart’s death was precisely that
of Rossini’s birth.146 Ultimately, in the journalist’s examination, no single aria in
Don Giovanni could compare with the prayer from Möise, the romance in
Desdemona or ‘Casta Diva’ in Norma.147 In this historically situated concept of
‘masterpiece’, Don Giovanni, and Mozart’s music more generally, was overcome by
Rossini’s music, more attuned to contemporary feelings and perceptions.
In contradistinction to Europe, in Mexico City there was no established
musical canon in the 1850s. In the latter part of the century, the absolute dominion of
Italian repertoire continued, with only sporadic presence of the French repertoire of
Meyerbeer, Bizet and Gounod. Only in the 1890s were ‘the strange voices of
Beethoven, Weber and Wagner first heard on Mexican stages’.148 But perhaps we
should look elsewhere to hear such music rather earlier than that. Beethoven, not
unlike Rossini, was first known in Mexican homes. In an 1826 newspaper
advertisement we find that piano concertos with orchestral accompaniments, not only
by Beethoven, but also by Kalkbrenner, Dussek, Cramer, Field and others are on
sale. On offer, too, are overtures in orchestral score, not only by Rossini but also by
Ibid., 28 June 1852. Maretzek’s experience was different in the U.S. and he was probably
expecting Mexicans to positively react to the opera as well. When the impresario presented Don
Giovanni at Astor Place House in New York, he claimed that it ‘brought support from all classes, and
attracted persons of all professions and every description to the Opera House.’ Preston mentions that
‘other sources corroborate the manager’s description of the audience’ and that the opera ‘saved the
season financially’. Preston, Opera on the Road, 152.
The actual dates are: 5 Dec. 1791 (Mozart’s death) and 29 Feb. 1792 (Rossini’s birth).
El Universal, 30 June 1852.
Ricardo Miranda, ‘El espejo idealizado: un siglo de ópera en México (1810-1910)’, La ópera en
España e Hispanoamérica. Actas del Congreso Internacional, La ópera en España e Hispanoamérica.
Una creación propia. Madrid, 29 Nov. /3 Dec. 1999 (Madrid: ICCMU, Colección Música hispana
textos. Estudios, [c2001]), 153.
Beethoven, Ries, Winter, Paer, Pleyel, Kufner, Mozart and Haydn. Finally there is
chamber music: quintets, quartets, trios and duets by Beethoven, Sorgel, Romberg,
Haydn, Viotti, Lafont, Carulli, among others.149 John Koegel has found that the
ensemble works published or sold in Mexico usually came with parts and a reduced
score or a piano reduction rather than full conductor’s score.150 Publishers provided
their clientele with this German, and also French and non-operatic Italian music for
home enjoyment. Unsurprisingly it is José Antonio Gómez who in an 1832
advertisement offers a music repertoire, available for sale in his own home, where he
sold music by Rossini, Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and others.151
We have a few hints of Beethoven’s presence in Mexico during the
eighteenth and first decades of the nineteenth centuries from Carmen Sordo’s short
article ‘Beethoven’s Projection in Mexico’. In 1797, Beethoven’s music was
forbidden by the Spanish authorities as ‘unpleasant to the ear and of doubtless danger
to the stability of the New Spanish kingdom’. However, Sordo claims, the music
shops of Mexico City continued to sell his music camouflaged as something else,
and even printed some of his works under ‘anonymous’ authorship.152
In 1854 ‘The German Philharmonic Club’ began to offer concerts by
invitation where German music figured prominently. In 1854, for instance, it gave a
concert in honour of the Dutch violinist Franz Coenen and pianist Ernest (Ernst)
Lubeck who were playing concerts in Mexico. According to El Siglo XIX, this was a
club of dilettanti who wanted to honour these artists ‘who have made known to
Mexico the beauty of the music of Thalberg, Liszt and Gottschalk’.153 The concert
included music by Gluck and Haydn, the song Liedesfreiheit by Marschner and
music by Zöttner, among others. Despite enjoying the performance, the reporter
disliked the fact that, much in the German Liedertafeln fashion, it was a men-only
El Sol, Supplement to No. 1195, 21 Sept. 1826.
John Koegel, ‘Towards a National Union Catalog of Nineteenth-Century Mexican Music
Imprints,’ Jan. 2009, unpublished paper, 5.
El Sol, 29 July 1832, quoted by Aguilar, ‘La imprenta profana,’ 73.
Carmen Sordo, ‘Beethoven's projection in Mexico’, Bericht Über Den Internationalen
Musikwissenschaftlichen Kongress Bonn 1970, ed. by Carl Dahlhaus; Hans Joachim Marx; Magda
Marx-Weber; Günther Massenkeil. Report on the Symposium ‘Reflexionen Über Musikwissenschaft
Heute’. (Kassel/Basel/Tours/ London: Bärenreiter, 1971), 577. Sordo demonstrates that from the
1860s onwards Beethoven became extremely popular in Mexico. There were also compositions in his
honour by well-known composers such as Aniceto Ortega; in addition, during President Benito Juárez
inauguration in 1867, Beethoven’s Egmont overture was played.
El Siglo XIX, 21 Jan. 1854.
event.154 With the arrival of Henrietta Sontag that same year, new Germanophilic
musical events took place in the same Club in honour of the singer, who, herself,
sang German music at concerts.155
There are two caveats about this repertoire that exceed the coverage of this
thesis but that are worth noting. The first is the fact that advertisements for this type
of non-operatic chamber music are found in the first decades of the century
(including the last part of the Colonial dominion), but is hardly found in later decades
when it was superseded by arrangements for chamber ensembles of mainly operatic
music, and piano and piano and voice music (during the 1860s) when there is again
an expansion of the repertoire being offered by music-sellers. The second idea refers
to the predominantly masculine character of this music, because in the first decades
of the nineteenth century women’s instruments were restricted to piano and voice or
(less frequently) harp and guitar. There is no sign that professional orchestras
employed women, and we have found no references to domestic performances with
women playing string or wind instruments. It is interesting to note that with the
exception of a waltz by Johann Strauss published by José Antonio Gómez, which is
not really considered ‘serious music’, women’s magazines did not publish Germanic
music at the time. Additionally, the Liedertafel episode reinforces the idea that
German repertoire was performed in a men’s space, and that it was a minority
interest. The dominance of Italian opera remained unthreatened.
Brantz Mayer offered a valuable assessment of the theatre’s role in Mexicans’
everyday life during his visit of 1844. He underscored the importance that theatrical
life held for the inhabitants of Mexico City: ‘[T]heater is a Mexican necessary of life.
It is the legitimate conclusion of a day, and all go to it; the old, because they have
been accustomed to do so from their infancy; the middle aged, because they find it
difficult to spend their time otherwise; and the young for a thousand reasons which
the young will most readily understand’.156
Ibid., 21 Feb. 1854. Probably Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861), German composer. No reference to
a composer Zöttner could be found.
Ibid., 13, 30 Apr. and 2 May 1854.
Mayer, Mexico as It Was, 287.
Amid the operatic phenomenon that began to take place in Mexico City after
independence, important changes in the circulation of repertoire and practices from
the home to the theatre and from the theatre to the home, and slow changes in taste
and musical repertoire, took place. The Mexicans’ incorrigible love for bel canto
remained largely untouched through the period probed in this thesis and the decades
after. In particular Rossini, as introduced by Manuel García in the1820s, captured
opera lovers’ imagination and predominated over the rest of the operatic composers.
Rossini’s melodies conquered the Mexicans’ homes and hearts and left its particular
mark in the way of a lens through which audiences looked at the rest of the
In the wake of the changes that began to happen in mid-century around
operatic matters, many discussions were conducted involving the role of women in
society, the rules for coexistence in public spaces, the role of the authorities in the
new civil society, and Mexico’s place in the community of nations and in the face of
what was considered to be the heart of civilisation: Europe.
Victor Uribe-Uran, who wrote about the emergence of the public sphere in
Spanish America, claims that ‘an at least incipient public sphere emerged within
colonial Spanish America’s civil societies in the late colonial period’.157 The actors
contributing to this development were ‘a limited circle of cultural elites’ that opened
out to other groups after independence.158 The foundation of sociedades de amigos
del país, tertulias patrióticas, literary, scientific and economic associations together
with the emergence of independent presses that published an increasing number of
newspapers, are proof of the development and expansion of civil societies and of a
‘rudimentary’ public sphere.159 After independence, the body politic became stronger
with the proliferation of presses and the organisation of sociedades and literary
groups by the letrados (lawyers and intellectuals). Uribe-Uran considers that ‘These
new social forums, along with the patriotic armies themselves, became new public
spaces and means to shape an alternative legitimacy. They also produced a new
source of political power—namely, “public opinion”’.160
Victor M. Uribe-Uran, ‘The Birth of a Public Sphere in Latin America during the Age of
Revolution,’ Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, No.2 (2000), 425.
Ibid., 437.
Ibid., 439-445.
Ibid., 450.
Theatres too became an instance of this emerging ‘public sphere’, where
private individuals engaged in debates over the rules governing relations in that
sphere of commodity exchange and social labour.161 In theatres, this ‘new civil
society’ opened spaces for debate, questioned authority ‘from above’ and demanded
‘availability of the cultural product’ of which they were becoming key authors now
that the Colonial, authoritarian, rule was over. Those same elites that Uribe-Urban
finds writing and publishing new newspapers and founding societies, attended music
performances where they not only were connected as the cultural elite but where they
also discussed economic and political matters. In a Habermasian vision, Mexican
theatre could also be viewed as a training ground for critical public opinion. The
process was multifaceted and fluid: theatrical life shaped social and political life as
much as new social and political rules and organisations shaped behaviour inside the
theatre. In a wider sphere, the fashioning of identity for nineteenth-century Mexicans
was taking place through discursive practices and politically-charged actions inside
and around the opera house.
The theatrical operatic world of the first decades of the nineteenth century
also served as an experimental field in Mexico’s relationship to Europe. Europe had
been part of Mexican identity since its inception as a nation, but it was also an ideal
that was impossible to reach—like a mirage that constantly moved further away.
From a European perspective Mexico was irremediably behind the main European
cities in theatrical affairs. Foreign visitors were quick to point out this backwardness
via colonialist rhetoric. More precisely, the disparity between Mexico and Europe,
despite Mexicans’ alleged desire to become European musically speaking, was
caused by profound cultural differences that repeatedly surfaced, demonstrating the
specificity of the new nation vis-à-vis the Old World. These disparities became
evident in matters of behaviour and repertoire in the Mexican musical world, such as
the custom of smoking or the relentless love for Italian bel canto. In fact, differences
functioned not only as a demonstration of how far Mexico City was from London,
Paris or Vienna, but also served the purpose of reaffirming Mexicans’ sense of self,
as demonstrated by patriotic statements published in newspapers.
Mexicans’ complex relationship to Europe was also manifest in their
appraisal of visiting musicians, which we will examine in detail in the next chapter
Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category
of Bourgeois Society, trans. by Thomas Burger (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1989), 30.
devoted to the case of pianist-virtuoso Henri Herz and his mid-century tour of
Mexico. In this case too, patriotic drive and admiration for the European musical
world and products combined with Mexican agendas to create a singular experience,
with rich semantic and political implications.
Chapter 5
Henri Herz: A European Virtuoso in Mexico (1849-1850)
The variations on Norma were sublime. An admirable performance, an
exquisitely delicate touch, unbelievable mastery of the instrument, Herz makes
the piano laugh joyfully and then cry in heart-rending fashion. Those who
have not heard Herz have no idea what a piano is.
El Siglo XIX, 27 August 18491 (5.1, p. 314)
Virtuoso pianist and composer Henri Herz took Mexico by storm in 1849. His visit
was a temporary relief for demoralised national elites. After losing half of its
territory in the war with the U.S.A., Mexico desperately needed to raise her head and
to find viable ways of constructing a national identity. Practices, ideas and the
presence of visiting musicians proved to be key elements of nation building. The
country’s ambivalent relationship to Europe, which was both an aggressor and the
main provider of cultural models, is manifest in the way in which Mexicans clung to
all facets of the musicians’ visits: what they brought with them and what they
represented. According to somewhat ironic contemporary chroniclers, politicians
were often more occupied with what was in store at the theatre than with internal
quarrels and foreign invasions, which took place well into the 1860s. During the
nineteenth century, with the tours of visiting musicians and with the development of
a local musical secular community, music was incorporated into a new wave of
modern European cultural influence, and formed part of the civil endeavour of
identity construction. Mexico was to find, both in real and metaphorical terms, her
place in the concert of the nations.
In Mexico Henri Herz practiced a series of unprecedented procedures in the
country that affected the way music was conceived, both in public and private
spaces. While the main goal of the musician’s tour was to earn as much money as
possible, and the strategies he displayed were aimed at this specific target, from the
Mexicans’ point of view, Herz’s tour exceeded these aims.
The chapter conceptualises the effects of the virtuoso’s tour on Mexico’s
musical community, touching upon matters of class and, especially, gender. The
musician acted as the self-appointed leader of a musical Romantic school that placed
emphasis on its sentimental and domestic aspects. Accordingly, he especially
My emphasis.
targeted women, whom he rightly perceived as susceptible to his musical gallantries.
For instance, he dedicated pieces to them and gave sheet music to them gratis at his
concerts, and he targeted women as his preferred concert public. At the same time,
according to the evidence, Herz strove to take the musical salon and the music
performed there to the next level within musical life, and thus granted women, the
main actors of the salon, new relevance. In the end, however, as we shall see, his aim
was not the advancement and modernisation of music in Mexico (which would have
included, for instance, the furthering of women’s place within the musical
profession), but a propaganda campaign to promote his own aims. With regard to
men, he realised the importance of the pressing issues of creating a national
(musical) identity, and responded by proposing the composition of a national anthem
and the collection of local songs (sonecitos).2
Mexican professional musicians and musical amateurs were eager to
revitalise the culture of musical performance after interruptions caused by war. In
Richard Leppert’s concept:
The virtuoso anchored a broad range of paradoxical, often contradictory, meanings:
artist and businessman; inspired superhuman Genius, and sonority-producing
machine; utterly sincere in character and calculatingly manipulative; authentic and
fake; masculine and feminine; Byronic hero possessing militaristic stamina and
strength but, ironically—as regards Liszt—in the body of a pale, thin, and sometimes
fainting aesthete. These polarities to no small degree not only define the obsessive
fascination with the virtuoso in the nineteenth century but also mark the virtuoso at
the epicenter of the cultural and social issues that characterize modernity itself.
This ambiguity as embodied in the semiotic sign of the virtuoso enabled its
appropriation by Mexican men and women. The melange of Romantic and modern
elements Herz introduced during his performances in Mexico proved well suited to
the transitional period Mexico was undergoing.
This was, of course, also a Romantic practice, widely in vogue in Europe with the creation of
national identities during the first half of the nineteenth century. It was, in addition, practised before
by Herz in the U.S. and afterwards in both Peru and Chile.
Richard Leppert, ‘The Musician of the Imagination’ in The Musician as Entrepreneur, 1700-1914.
Managers, Charlatans, and Idealists ed. by William Weber (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 2004), 26.
A modern musical colonisation of Mexico
Henri Herz brought to Mexico the European model of the virtuoso both in the
Romantic image of the Artist as a visionary genius and a charmer of ladies, and in
the form of a series of (tangible and profitable) modern elements characteristic of
nineteenth-century commercialisation of music. Some of the traits Mary Louise Pratt
identifies in the new European travellers of the nineteenth century can be applied,
mutatis mutandis, to travelling musicians. They showed intolerance to what their
predecessors idealised: unexplored nature and ‘primitive’ societies. They regarded
these facts as a failure of human enterprise and sought to act as a ‘capitalist
vanguard’. According to Pratt, there is a good amount of hypocrisy in this view, for:
‘Ideologically, the vanguard’s task is to reinvent America as backward and
neglected, to encode its non-capitalist landscapes and societies as manifestly in need
of the rationalized exploitation the Europeans bring’.4
Herz was applying a long-standing, albeit altered, equation that can be traced
back to the Spanish conquest: religion and civilization in exchange for gold. It is
simply that in the travelling musicians’ case, religion was replaced by culture and
weapons by pianos. In addition, Herz’s representation of the modernised musical
Romantic hero was appealing to a people who were used to and loved, Baroque
theatricality during Colonial times and who were currently reading Romantic
literature. He was in fact a modern impresario calculating his potential profit without
displaying this interest to the public. On this occasion, nineteenth-century refined
entertainment was to be presented on the Mexican stage, and this was the carefully
prepared task of Bernard Ullman, Herz’s agent. The agent was a new character on
the Mexican scene. He was charged with raising the public’s expectations and
creating an aura of mystery to the virtuoso to come.
Bernard Ullman was a Hungarian immigrant to the United States, where he
arrived around 1842 and eventually became a manager to a number of European
touring musicians. Years later, Herz vividly narrated his first encounter with Ullman
in New York. The virtuoso described Ullman as ‘a very young man’, although he
was probably twenty-nine by then and, by all accounts, possessed a strong
Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge,
1992), 151-2.
personality.5 He knew what he wanted: to have ‘wealth as everyone in America
does’, and he knew how to sell himself accordingly. The pianist’s memoirs recall
their first encounter:
‘What do you know how to do?’ I asked young Ulmann, who had been
warmly recommended to me.
‘Nothing,’ replied the future impresario frankly, ‘but for the very reason I do
not know how to do anything, I do know how to get things done. Try me. I will take
care of the concert posters, I will have your programs printed, I will see that
everything is in order in the hall where you hold your concert, I will present you
favourably to the newspaper editors. The newspaper is the key to artistic success
[…] If you wish it, I will give you my advice on whatever steps I think useful to
take, for it does not always suffice to have only talent to succeed; finally, I will act in
your interest, which will become mine, in doing whatever you cannot do yourself but
nevertheless urgently need to have done.6
Herz found Ullman’s argument and personality compelling enough to grant him the
opportunity he requested.7 They became a team through good times and bad, and
stayed together during the U.S. and the Mexican tour, from 1846 to 1850. Thereafter,
Herz continued the South American part of the tour by himself and Ullman returned
to the U.S. to become a prosperous impresario. The itinerary of Herz’s Latin
American tour, never collated before, was as follows: Mexico, first stay, ten months
(June 1849-March 1850) before journeying on to San Francisco (where he stayed
during the month of April 1850) and then two months again (May-June 1850) after
He was probably born in 1817 and there is no account of his career before his arrival in the States.
His name is variously spelled as Ullman, Ulman, Ulmann or Uhlman. William Brookes and Katherine
K. Preston, ‘Ullman, Bernard’, Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy. Accessed 04 12 2006,
This last phrase is crucial for an understanding why Herz knew he needed Ullman. Herz had
confidence in his musical merits but he also realized that in the U.S., and more generally as a touring
musician with a busy schedule, he also needed a commercial strategy and an assistant to organise the
practical aspects of the tour. This quotation comes from a series of articles originally published in
French in La France Musicale, a specialized newspaper, in 1851-1852. Later Herz revised the articles
for publication as a book: Mes voyages en Amérique (Paris: Fauré, 1866). In this text I use the English
version: Henri Herz, My Travels in America, trans. Henry Bertram Hill (Madison: The State Historical
Society of Wisconsin for The Department of History, University of Wisconsin, 1963), 29. Compared
with the newspaper articles, he abbreviated the musical matters in the book and became more
anecdotal, stressing the stereotypes of Americans. Allen Lot recommends not taking his statements at
face value: ‘His version of the truth is often chronologically inaccurate, and some anecdotes are too
ridiculous to believe’. However, it is an invaluable document in assessing Herz and the mentality of
his times. See also R. Allen Lott, From Paris to Peoria. How European Piano Virtuosos Brought
Classical Music to the American Heartland (Oxford /New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 58.
On Ullman as manager see R. Allen Lott, From Paris to Peoria, op. cit., also Laurence Marton
Lerner, ‘The Rise of the Impresario: Bernard Ullman and the Transformation of Musical Culture in
Nineteenth-Century America,’ PhD diss. (Univ. of Wisconsin, 1970); and Laure Schnapper, ‘6.
Bernard Ullman-Henri Herz. An Example of Financial and Artistic Partnership, 1846-1849,’ in The
Musician as Entrepreneur, 1700-1914: Managers, Charlatans and Entrepreneurs, ed. by William
Weber (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana Univ. Press, 2004), 130-144.
his stay in San Francisco and before departing for Lima, Perú.8 His first concert in
Lima was on 19 August 1850; in November, he left for Chile where he gave several
concerts. In June 1850, he returned to Lima and on 9 July 1851 he took a ship back
to London.9
How and why the relationship between Herz and Ullman terminated in
Mexico remains unclear. The American impresario Max Maretzek, who knew
Ullman well, contends that Herz ‘dismissed’ him.10 We might mistrust Maretzek
because of his obvious competitiveness with Ullman—the Austrian-American and
the Hungarian-American managing European talent in the land of the dollar—and
also because of his interest in managing some of the same artists as Ullman (for
example, Henrietta Sontag). However, it might also be that Maretzek learned how the
Ullman-Herz partnership ended when he brought an Italian opera company from
New York to Mexico only four years after Herz and Ullman had left the country, and
heard first hand reports of the matter. The fact that Ullman and Herz did indeed part
ways in Mexico, never to reunite, lends credibility to Maretzek’s assertion.
At any rate, Ullman and Herz agreed on the foremost purpose of their work
relationship: money. Ullman was presented by Herz as the ‘capitalist vanguard’, to
borrow Pratt’s term, allowing Herz himself to shine as the Romantic artist of
Herz gave four concerts in the Teatro Coliseo of the town of Durango in Northern Mexico: 24, 27
and 31 January and 3 February 1850, which is the last Mexican concert of which I have news. See
Javier Guerrero Romero, Teatro Coliseo. Teatro Victoria. 200 años de vida del primer teatro del
norte de México (Mexico: Instituto Municipal del Arte y la Cultura de Durango, 2001), 55-57. From
then on, Herz vanishes from the records until 2 April, when he gives his first concert in San Francisco.
Those two months, about which we know little, were partly spent travelling to California. That is why
I take March as the end of his Mexican tour. According to the Mexican newspaper El Siglo XIX, 20
May 1850, in San Francisco, Herz stayed ‘less than a month and gave twelve concerts’. He then
briefly returned to Mexico (June 1850) and performed several concerts in Guadalajara and perhaps
other towns, from where he was planning to continue to Mexico City again but was deterred by the
cholera epidemics.
Schnapper, ‘Bernard Ullman- Henri Herz...,’ 137. Herz’s stay in Peru is mentioned in Rodolfo
Barbacci, Apuntes para un diccionario biográfico musical peruano (Peru: Fénix, [1950]), 463-464. I
thank musicologist Aurelio Tello for this reference. The Chilean tour is referred to in Eugenio Pereira
Salas, Historia de la Música en Chile, 1850-1900 (Santiago: Univ. de Chile, 1957), 111-114. The
details of Herz’s tour in Peru and Chile exceed the scope of this work and would certainly need
research on primary sources, of the type I have done in Mexican newspapers, in those respective
countries. Herz apparently copied his Mexican model in his tours in Peru and Chile: composed a
National March, played improvisation on local tunes and proposed to collect an album of ‘national
His memoirs, which I have quoted in relation to the Eufrasia Amat’s case in Chapter Three, are
eloquent testimony of his experiences in the United States and Mexico. Max Maretzek Revelations of
an Opera Manager in 19th-Century America: Crotchets and Quavers and Sharps and Flats [1855, 1st
volume; 1890, 2nd volume], with a new intro. by Charles Haywood, Two volumes bound as one (New
York: Dover, 1968). The reference to Ullman’s dismissal is in page 307.
elevated spirit. Herz gave the following account of a dialogue with Ullman in the
memoirs of his U.S. tour:
One day, when my secretary had proposed something more fantastic than usual—
more ingenious perhaps would be more polite—I told him that I wished insofar as it
was possible not to use other people or special tricks to draw a crowd for my
concerts. I wanted them to rely on my art.
‘Art, art, always art’, replied Ulmann [sic] in a depreciatory tone. ‘What,
then, do you think music is’
‘You want a definition of music?’
‘All right. Music is the art of evoking moods by means of combinations of
‘Is that all?’
‘So it would seem to me.’
‘Not at all. Music is the art of attracting to a given auditorium, by secondary
devices which often become the principal ones, the greatest possible number of
curious people so that when expenses are tallied against receipts the latter exceed the
former by the widest possible margin’.11
Prepared by Ullman, Herz’s reception on the outskirts of Mexico City befitted that of
a returning hero, with a welcoming escort of musicians and amateurs from the
Mexican elite. This magnificent reception even surfaced in the U.S. papers, where
Americans had recently witnessed Herz’s two-year musical tour:12 ‘Herz is being
lionized in Mexico. A large procession of the leading musicians, amateurs, and of the
nobility and citizens, went out on the afternoon of the 10th of July, upwards of two
leagues, to meet M. Herz, and escort him into the city, where he was received with
every demonstration of respect and esteem’.13 According to the Mexican papers,
Herz was received ‘with the most cordial tokens of appreciation’, and those who
could not follow the delegation to El Peñón Viejo, waited for him at the Hotel de la
Gran Sociedad, where he stayed, and was, once again, the subject of a distinguished
reception including a military band placed in the Hotel’s courtyard, that played for a
long time.14
Herz, My Travels, 41-2.
For details of the American part of the tour see R. Allen Lot, From Paris. His American expedition
was not all honey and roses. Herz received mixed reviews, including strong criticisms, and became
involved in clashes with other musicians. These annoyances, however, were part and parcel of the
virtuoso life and were calculated to attract renewed public interest.
A league is equivalent to 3½ miles. The Message Bird. A Literary and Musical Journal, New York,
15 Aug. 1849, 27. It is likely that Ullman kept the American press informed of Herz’s success in
Mexico, with a possible return to that country in mind.
El Monitor Republicano, 13 July 1849.
The occasion perhaps found echoes, in the older audience, of receptions
organised during Colonial times, when a new viceroy or bishop arrived from Spain.
It was conceivably a chance to recuperate some lost grandeur, drenched in nostalgia
for formerly authoritarian viceregal times, transferred to the person of the travelling
musician in newly independent republican Mexico. At the same time, these new
European ambassadors carried the seemingly utopian possibility for Mexicans to
form part of the Western world as a republic in its own right and in a peaceful
manner, suspending for a short time their perceptions of the crude imperialism
manifested by the U.S. and Europe. However, as Pratt has argued, ‘one would
seriously misinterpret creole15 relations to European metropolis (even in their neocolonial dimensions) if one thought of creole esthetics as simply imitating or
mechanically reproducing European discourses’.16 The process of transculturation of
European values, understood as ‘selecting and deploying [European materials] in
ways that do not simply reproduce the hegemonic visions of Europe’,17 was over
three centuries old by the time Herz arrived in Mexico. Mexicans needed Herz’s visit
as much as Herz needed it; and, far from being as gullible as he thought, they
resignified his tour into their own nation-building quest.
La Lonja concert series. A telling failure of musical organisation
Herz, most likely through Ullman, published a letter of acknowledgment in the
papers in which he courteously flattered the Mexican amateurs and professional
musicians who welcomed him and who were, of course, the potential clients for his
concerts. The condescending rhetoric displayed by the Herz-Ullman declaration in
the papers was consonant with the old-fashioned flavour his welcoming reception
had exhibited: ‘From Europe I had already heard of the extraordinary fondness
Mexicans have for the arts, and especially music; thus I consider the reception I
received less than a proof of personal benevolence than a solemn homage, rendered
Mary Louise Pratt is referring here to criollo as defined above; ‘creole’ could be confusing since in
America it has been specifically applied to mixed races from the U.S. South and more specifically to
Louisiana and the New Orleans area, including its cuisine, as well as the Caribbean area. By contrast,
criollo refers specifically to locally born people, in Spanish speaking countries, descendants of
Peninsulars as the Spaniards were called. Their blood was suppose to be pure, or almost pure, Spanish
blood. They held a higher status than all other classes in society save for Peninsulars.
Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 187-188.
Ibid., 188.
to the divine art, of which I am but a humble devotee’.18 The ‘king of pianists’ who
had ‘no left hand but two right hands’ was then ready to charm.19 While this
reception was an all-male affair that included strenuous horse riding and military
music, for the next stages of their tour, Herz/Ullman turned to their female
Women were active participants in the theatre, a space in which they found
ways to develop their own taste and artistic sensibility, beyond the domestic realm.
Visiting musicians displayed a particularly intense focus on women, whom they
conceived as the perfect consumers of their musical products, both intangible and
tangible: seduction, glamour, but also sheet music. During Herz’s tour of the U.S., an
American critic captured the seductive power of Herz’s playing style like this: ‘De
Meyer may break a piano, but Herz can break a heart’.20 An American lady gave
credit to the critic’s words when she wrote ‘[W]hen I heard Herz play his own
compositions, I was carried away with unqualified delight’.21 In Mexico Herz moved
women’s hearts and emptied their husbands’ pockets in concert tickets and sheet
music, while also promoting women’s involvement in music making.
In a ‘Biographical notice’ printed in Mexico, Herz presented himself as ‘the
sun’ of the new school, ‘the father and chief of Romantic music’.22 The type of
Romanticism Herz was advocating was that of a modus vivendi, a musical kind of
social interaction between professionals and concertgoers and dilettanti, the latter of
which he was especially eager to draw on-side. While in Europe Herz was attacked
by Schumann and his friends for his commercialism and superficiality,23 in Mexico
he could freely advocate for a less intellectualised version of Romanticism, including
the defence of operatic music outside the theatre and in the salon, the middle-class—
and not aristocratic—salon. The piano stood at the centre of this advocacy. Women
were crucial in this project for they were the main performers of piano music in the
El Monitor Republicano, 14 July 1849.
Expressions used in Mexican newspapers. See for instance: El Siglo XIX, 6 July 1849, El Universal,
11 July 1849.
Quoted in Lott, From Paris, 59.
Lydia Maria Child as quoted in Lott, From Paris, 71.
The article is signed by well-known writer Manuel Payno. El Álbum Mexicano. Periódico de
Literatura, Artes y Bellas Artes, II (Mexico, 1849), 208-218.
We need to remember that Schumann’s objective when founding his Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in
1834 was precisely to fight against the commercialism and superficiality embodied in the virtuosi that
swept Paris in those years. ‘Let us not look and do nothing!’ he said ‘Take action so that poetic
qualities may again be honoured in this art’. Leon Plantinga, Schumann as Critic (New Haven/
London: Yale University Press, 1967), 3-4.
salon, the new transitional space between private and public among the middle and
upper classes. In the decades following Herz’s visit, Mexican composers undertook
an initial search for a musical identity, which, in its first instances, took place
prominently in this very space, in the form of music which contained musical
references to local melodies and songs. Herz, as well, as other visiting musicians,
played a role in establishing this trend.
Nevertheless, the tour did not start smoothly. Failed attempts by Ullman to
secure for his patron the only functioning public hall, the National Theatre, due to
previously booked engagements, forced him to look for an alternative venue. His
negotiations led to a series of four concerts, starting 6 August, in a lavish house
called La Lonja, owned by an association of merchants.24 This exclusive all-male
association granted access to women only during balls held a few times a year.
However, women were considered a natural public for concerts and therefore were
not excluded from this occasion. Herz’s La Lonja concerts put at the centre of the
discussion two issues that were live within the Mexican concert-going elite: one was
precisely the discussion about women, but in this case it added the interrelated issue
of class.
We know that the real cause of difficulty concerning Mr. Herz’s concert at La Lonja,
was in the basic repugnance of certain members that, given the open entrance to
everybody, perhaps their wives and daughters would have to sit near persons without
principles, nor education or decency. Having overcome this obstacle by means of
subscription, the concert will take place soon.25 (5.2, p. 314)
Mexicans were now facing for the first time the dilemma of the semi-private elitist
musical space open to unknown ‘others’. The collapse of the Colonial caste system,
where blood and birth-lines determined one’s position in society, left them with
uncertainties they had never faced before. These included the possibility that their
women, that is, those responsible for the literal and cultural reproduction of the
system, might establish direct contact with lower, if moneyed, classes. While in the
The association boasted not only savoir vivre but intellectual stimulation: its premises provided its
members with the main national and foreign newspapers, and an exclusive ball, open only to
members, their families and special guests, was periodically thrown. In order to become member, a
person had to be accepted by at least two-thirds of the constituency. A word that fell into disuse, lonja
literally meant public exchange or—usually wool—storeroom. The information presented here is
taken from Marcos Arróniz, a Spanish traveller to Mexico, who gave a detailed description of the
Mexican association in his Manual del viajero en México [1858], Facsimile (Mexico: Instituto Mora,
El Siglo XIX, 24 July 1849.
theatre the upper classes could, and did, subscribe to a box where their sense of
separateness from more ordinary people could be preserved, this physical separation
was much harder to achieve in a hall like La Lonja. Thus with this ‘women problem’
in mind the organisers decided to have La Lonja’s concerts open to the public, but
with access tightly controlled by subscription. A committee of La Lonja members
would supervise the subscriptions and authorise—or not—admission. In fact, the
conditions imposed by La Lonja to Herz, which were published in the papers, were
extremely restrictive, including four general clauses and seven additional
‘subscription conditions’. Among the first were that Herz would use only the main
and the meeting rooms and that the tickets were personal with a specific seat
assigned, ‘in order to avoid disputes concerning the place each holder of a ticket
should occupy’. The subscription conditions set a limit of 500 tickets to be sold for
the main room, and for the meeting room, ‘those places that can comfortably fit’; the
ticket was valid for the four concerts and its cost was one gold ounce.26 The
committee was to evaluate the applications for tickets on 4 and 5 August (the
concerts were to take place on 6, 9, 13 and 16 August).27 The level of detail of this
announcement is unusual, telling of the rarity of the event and of the tensions it
embodied, especially the intermingling of castes, classes and gender.
The newspaper El Monitor Republicano, which as its name indicates was an
adamant Republican and anti-elitist publication, was quick to express, albeit in an
indirect and subtle fashion, its reservations about La Lonja’s arrangement: ‘Mr. Herz
prefers to give his concert in a private building; we believe, however, that none of
those existing in Mexico would be large enough for the crowds that want to hear the
eminent artist’.28 In fact, Ullman and Herz could hardly have preferred the private
hall, but were simply making the best of a bad situation. It became obvious later that
they were unaware of the social unrest the concerts would cause. The newspaper was
indirectly referring to the unease that Mexican musicians and amateurs felt toward an
exclusionary organization.
As detailed as the instructions on the sale of tickets published by La Lonja’s
subscriptions committee were, they were not clear enough, apparently, for a bemused
contingent of Herz’s followers. The Monitor Republicano considered that further
The limited places available, compared to the over 2,300 at the National Theatre, plus the high
prices, several times higher than those of the theatre, is telling of the elitist nature of the event.
El Siglo XIX, 2 Aug.1849.
El Monitor Republicano, 23 July 1849.
clarification of the concept ‘boleto personal’ (personal ticket) was required, which
only confirms the fact that this was an unprecedented procedure: ‘Since many
persons have not understood the concept of “personal ticket”, the committee hastens
to let the public know that just as the word “personal” indicates, the ticket cannot be
used but by the person whose name is written on it’.29
A couple of days later, a further ‘Rectification’ was published in the papers,
which slightly relaxed the committee’s original requirements. This is the first
adaptation of the original plan in light of the prevailing conditions—a portent not
only of the eventual failure of the organisation of La Lonja’s concerts but, at a
deeper level, the fact that the world represented in La Lonja’s members’ scheme of
things was rapidly changing.
With regard to rumours circulating in the city, by those who like to make things
complicated, which claim that the names of the persons who want to buy tickets for
Mr. Herz's concert should be approved by the committee in charge of the
subscription, we hasten to assure the public that this is false. Every respectable
person has the right to obtain tickets, and these shall be emitted without any further
requirements other than the signature of one of the 47 members of La Lonja. This is
done only to prevent abuses which, violating the public's interest, have always been
practiced on this type of occasion.
Given that the committee is engaged otherwise, M. Herz’s secretary will be in La
Lonja this morning to sell tickets.30 (5.3, p. 314)
The rhetoric is telling of the social tension underlying the matter: without admitting
it, the committee retracted what it previously stated, and left a margin of ambiguity
that worked to its advantage. However, it was forced to give uncomfortable—albeit
vague—explanations. To further complicate matters, it turned out that Ullman
himself, and not the members of the La Lonja committee, was in charge of selling
tickets, a change made probably to encourage reluctant sectors of the middle classes
to buy entrance tickets and who wanted to avoid being screened by the La Lonja
Ullman dealt an additional blow to the original plan when he realised that the
way the subscription concerts were being planned by the committee was becoming a
fiasco. It was obvious by then that the stratospheric prices, together with the
complicated instructions, had led to very low ticket sales. Ullman then had to
El Monitor Republicano, 3 Aug. 1849.
Ibid., 5 Aug. 1849.
intervene, implementing damage control, and on the day of the first concert he
published an announcement aimed at selling as many last-minute tickets as possible.
First, the announcement clarified that alongside subscriptions for all four concerts,
tickets for the concerts beginning that night were to be sold separately, for four pesos
for each concert, and that people could buy them directly from the pianist’s
secretary.31 This desperate appeal indicates just how poor ticket sales had been up to
that moment. Yet this was not a veritable remedy to the problem, for individual
tickets were also extremely expensive: at the National Theatre, the regular price for
the most expensive ticket was only one peso.
After Herz’s first concert and before his second, a proud letter to the editors
of the Monitor Republicano signed by ‘Many passionate followers of Herz’,
delivered the final blow to the concert series. It is the moneyed new postindependence business class speaking in this passionate manifesto. It demands
conditions of equality with those who still held the staggering banner of nobility
inherited from Colonial times. The publication straightforwardly asked Herz, ‘in the
name of a multitude eagerly waiting to listen to the prominent pianist and composer’,
to stop giving concerts at La Lonja. They refused to attend that hall in order ‘to avoid
an unpleasant and indecent assessment [of themselves]. Even though, we are
positive, that we and our families, signatories of this article, would not be snubbed’.32
The problem was not the one ounce fee as such, which they were ready to pay—
bragging they would even be ready to pay twice that price, if conditions were
different. They exonerated Herz from responsibility for the prevailing situation
because ‘he does not know our mores and our character’ and he always wanted ‘to
generate affection and good relationships to all classes of society’, for which reasons
they believed he would heed their advice.33
Caught in the middle of a dispute heightened by but not generated by their
presence, Herz and his manager quickly understood that the Austro-French
musician’s public image was suffering from the conflict, and that he was alienating
an important part of his potential paying public. After giving the second concert on 9
August and without further delay, Herz published a letter to the La Lonja committee,
in which he apologized for cancelling the rest of the series. Published in the
El Monitor Republicano, 6 Aug.1849.
Ibid., 9 Aug. 1849. My italics.
newspapers on 12 August, the letter stated that in spite of having been treated with
great consideration by the institution, he felt forced to acknowledge that ‘the
conditions that you have stipulated for using your locale, and which are
indispensable for the corporation, have met with such opposition from the public that
my friends advise me to interrupt this series of concerts that I intended to offer at La
Lonja’.34 For his own sake, Herz lined up with the Mexican aspiring classes—‘my
friends’—in the La Lonja conflict.
Over 300 people attended Herz’s first concert at La Lonja. The invited guests
included the president of the republic, the state secretaries, the governor of the city,
and the French envoy, among many other notables. Journalists did not fail to mention
that also present were ‘a great number of Mexican young ladies, as beautiful as they
were interesting’.35 The difficult negotiations around La Lonja concert did not, in the
end prevent upper-class women from attending and being at the centre of the event.
Women functioned as an passively-fashioned ‘adornment’ for men who went to
listen to concerts and at the same time they were also active participants in a space in
which they found ways to develop their own taste and artistic sensibility, matters that
were absent from most roles of their daily life as housewives, daughters and sisters.
As we have seen, women were at the centre of men’s discussion concerning the tour:
those who did not want their women to intermingle with lower-class men, and those
who were not prepared to have their families scrutinised by a discriminating elite.
Ullman and Herz started their own agenda regarding women, by disseminating an
image of the artist, not unlike modern pop artists. One of the first announcements
united their entrepreneurialism to that of the local publisher, who crowed: ‘In the
lithography of this paper [El Siglo XIX] we have done a portrait of Mr. Herz, which
will be exhibited during the night of the first concert, for the audience to look at, in
several places of the hall of La Lonja’. On this occasion the image was only to be
seen by those who could pay the entrance fee to the hall. Despite the mixed results,
the La Lonja series made Herz and his agent, as we will see, also ensured greater
access to the musician’s image and presence.
The spectacle character of concerts was a central element in the paraphernalia
of the virtuoso. Ullman knew and exploited this nineteenth-century fashion well,
sometimes with a thousand candles on stage, with military bands, with horses, with
El Monitor Republicano, 12 Aug. 1849.
El Siglo XIX, 9 Aug. 1849.
sixteen pianists or, as in this case, with an amplification of the presence of the pianist
himself by means of images. The ‘audience’, especially thinking of women, would
like to assess the looks of the courteous artist; but indirectly it included men too, for
they would be able to appreciate the latest Parisian masculine fashion and bearing as
embodied by Herz, who was publicised as elegant and well-mannered.
According to El Siglo XIX’s chivalric description, most likely provided by
Ullman: ‘[Herz] is knight of the Legion of Honour, he has been the pianist of Charles
X, and he is currently the first pianist and composer of Louis Felipe. He has been
named by the French government professor in chief of the Paris Conservatoire, and a
member extraordinary of Santa Cecilia by his Holiness, the Pope, in Rome’.36 He
was not especially good-looking (a fact even the article had to admit); neither did his
46 years of age allow him to be considered young. Nevertheless, the chivalry
continued: ‘Enrique Herz is taller than average, of an elegant bearing, of
distinguished manners, and without being handsome in rigor, he presents a very
agreeable sight, and each one of his movements breathes nobility’.37 He embodied
French elegance: properly dressed in a black-tie with the red ribbon of the Legion of
Honour in his buttonhole and with his hidden hand à la Napoléon, a proverbial
courtesy and deference to women. He was certainly different from the soldiers and
the lower-class men to be seen in every street of Mexico City and he was also unlike
the upper-class men surrounding his female audience, because he, unlike them, was
there exclusively to please and to charm them. The only things this modern coloniser
asked of women in exchange for his show was their enraptured gaze, their applause
and of course their (husbands’) money. The construction of Herz as idealised
character added materiality to the imaginary worlds of Mexican women who avidly
nourished themselves with Romantic literature being published at the time in
women’s journals.38
Women were also in the musician and organisers’ minds at the La Lonja’s
concerts for dance. A significant portion of Herz’s salon compositions were dance
pieces: quadrilles, waltzes, polkas, etc. In his concerts at La Lonja he took dance, a
traditionally feminine and feminised activity that occurs at home, to a semi-public
The article was originally published in 1841 in France.
El Siglo XIX, 18 July 1849.
As we mentioned in Chapter Two, pre-Romantic and Romantic, mainly French, literature,
represented in authors such as Rousseau, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo,
Lamartine and Byron, among others, was published in women and literary journals from the 1820s
and especially during the 1840s in Mexico.
space. Once the pianist finished playing the official programme, chairs were moved
aside, leaving enough space ‘[s]o the ladies could dance, many of whom offered their
bouquets to the celebrated pianist. And they did indeed dance some of the pieces, in
which Mr. Herz shone again as the composer of the quadrilles entitled Las Elegantes,
La Polka del Siglo, and also of the Waltz de los Segadores’.39
An additional enticement for those women attending the (expensive) concerts
was the little musical piece that the virtuoso offered as a gift. ‘We know that one of
Mr Herz's gallantries with the ladies is to give each of them a copy of the first
composition he wrote in Mexico, with the title of the La Polka del Siglo’.40 Ignacio
Cumplido, publisher of newspapers and magazines such as El Siglo XIX and El
Álbum Mexicano, and close collaborator of Herz, made good business by publishing
the Polka in different formats and at different prices, and by constantly announcing
Herz’s publications in his paper.
After the day-dream was over, women could always take home some of
Herz’s pieces to play, or perhaps even his portrait, and thereby recover the lost
magic. They could recreate Herz’s resonating presence in their own terms and in
their own spaces. Playing at home could then become a way of uniting fantasy and
reality: Romantic literature and real life. While women most likely enjoyed being
wooed in this fashion by ‘the king of pianists’, the elite of La Lonja men probably
felt anxious about the potential assortment of social classes present on the
improvised dance-floor. Herz’s show was indeed specifically designed to entertain
women in splendid style: portraits, dance, sheet-music as a gift and ice-cream! The
reporter stated that ‘with unprecedented gallantry during a public concert, during
each interval, ice-cream was served to the audience’.41
The La Lonja affair is fascinating precisely for its somewhat disappointing
results. The first encounter between the musical coloniser and his subjects became a
cultural clash between the musician’s commercial strategies, the local idiosyncrasy
of the upper classes of old good stock and the new Republican democratising spirit
of the times, as embodied by the aspiring classes. A society in the process of social
readjustment was made evident: classes on the rise demanded access to a culture that
El Siglo XIX, 9 Aug. 1849. La Polka del Siglo was specifically composed for the Mexican women
and printed by Ignacio Cumplido, the editor of El Siglo XIX. This was also a collaboration between
the musician and the local press where both expected to earn fame and profit from the enterprise.
Ibid., 2 Aug. 1849. My emphasis.
until then had belonged to the elites. The times of the pre-eminence of blood purity,
associated with the Spanish colonial period, were clearly over, and negotiations over
public, and even semi-private, spaces were now imperative.
Women, performance and repertoire
After La Lonja, concerts at the National Theatre finally started to take place. The
first took place on Saturday 18 August 1849.42 There people of most social classes
could buy a ticket to see Herz. At the same time, in El Álbum Mexicano. Periódico
de Literatura, Artes y Bellas Letras, a magazine directed especially to Mexican
ladies, the public could obtain Herz’s portrait to take home with them.43 The
popularization of the image of the artist, previously the prerogative of La Lonja
concertgoers, was a sign of the accessibility the musician was looking for.
Figure 32. Image published as part of Henri Herz,
Mes Voyages en Amérique (Paris, Achille Faure, 1866)
It was precisely during Herz’s concerts at the National Theatre that an
unprecedented practice began: the placement of chairs on stage for the public. Herz’s
capitalistic drive was apparently contagious, and had been caught by the theatre’s
managers. The demand for tickets was so great, they claimed, that this was the only
Concerts at La Lonja took place on 6 and 9 August; those programmed for 13 and 16 August were
cancelled for the reasons stated above.
Herz’s portrait is between pages 208 and 209.
way to make room for more people, although El Siglo XIX, Herz’s spokesman,
unabashedly announced that: ‘chairs will be put on the stage itself, for ladies who
would like to listen more closely to the great pianist, and they could climb to the
stage by stairs put beside the orchestra, especially for the occasion, and they shall
also enjoy a beautiful sight of the amphitheatre that will be exceptionally
ornamented’.44 The Romantic modern cult of the person was being staged in Mexico
City’s theatre and, in this representation, women were assigned a leading part denied
them in other areas of public participation. They could not only see closely, and
almost touch, the great pianist, but also be seen. They would be on stage for
everyone to admire; an extraordinary opportunity not to be missed. According to a
letter from Herz to his brother, the organizers had to put the extravagant number of
350 chairs on stage.45 Women were rightfully allowed on stage without the negative
connotations this position brought with it concerning actresses.
Those women who could not attend the concert of La Lonja, and thus did not
get a free copy of La Polka del siglo, could now buy the score for the moderate price
of one real or acquire the Álbum Mexicano, where not only the image of Herz but
also La Polka del Siglo.46 Herz even dedicated a piece to Ignacio Cumplido’s
daughter, La Camelia. Nuevo walse brillante, ‘composed in Mexico and dedicated to
Miss Guadalupe Cumplido’, for which the publisher obtained the rights to
publication and distribution. Herz also published and sold with great success other
pieces allegedly composed in Mexico (See Table VI, p. 222)47 and also composed
elsewhere: ‘I’d like you to send me lots of my pieces; I can sell them easily and with
significant profits’, he wrote to his brother Charles from Mexico.48 Arthur Loesser
points out that ‘Herz’s compositions sold more than those of any other composer
whatsoever, and publishers reputedly paid him four times as much per page as they
El Siglo XIX, 16 Aug. 1849. My emphasis.
Letter from Henri Herz to his brother Charles, Mexico, 20 Sept. 1849, Bibliothèque Nationale de
France, Musique, l.a. Henri Herz., no 49. Considering Herz’s tendency to exaggerate his success, we
can assume that this number was probably smaller, although not significantly so, because we know the
concert was sold out and there was a widespread resale of tickets.
For a facsimile edition of this piece with a preliminary study, see Yael Bitrán, ‘Furor por la polka’,
Heterofonía 134-135 (2006), 131-140. The number of reales per peso was eight for the most part of
the nineteenth century.
Other pieces may still appear besides the ones I have located so far. At least one, the Marcha
Nacional, was recycled from material previously composed. See below the section on the National
Anthem and the National March.
Letter from Henri Herz to his brother Charles, Mexico, 20 Sept. 1849, Bibliothèque Nationale de
France, Musique, l.a. Henri Herz., no 49.
did almost anyone else’. Loesser hits the mark when he described Herz’s salon
pieces as ‘plausibly brilliant but not discouragingly difficult’.49
Herz’s and Cumplido’s interest in the music-publishing business for home
consumption is a clear indication of the popularity of this kind of product in Mexican
upper-class homes. Judging by the numerous new printing shops or retail businesses
that announced music for sale in the papers, the 1850s marked an era of market
expansion for this type of publication. The visit of Herz and other musicians at this
time intensified this market and, consequently, contributed to a nascent private
musical culture, independent from Church and theatres, and in which women were
central. The impact of salon music in Mexico at the time can only be compared with
the popularity of opera, although on stage the latter suffered from the ups and downs
of political instability while the former enjoyed sustained success fostered by the
relative stability of private homes.
Month/year of
Rondó para piano
Four and a
half reales51
La Polka del Siglo XIX
August 1849
One real
Gran Rondó Dedicado
al Rey de los Franceses
La Camelia. Nuevo
walse brillante
Marcha Nacional
compuesta para los
La Morisca
La Tapada
August 1849
October 1849
Three reales
December 1849
One peso
José Antonio
Gómez in El
Filarmónico, vol.
II, pp. 155-161.
Imprenta de
M. Murguía
M. Murguía
Arthur Loesser, Men, Women and Pianos. A Social History, with a new foreword by Edward
Rothstein and a preface by Jacques Barzun (New York: Dover Publications, 1990), 350.
Sources: El Siglo XIX, El Monitor Republicano and the sheet music. As far as we know, the only
publication by Herz that was printed before his arrival in Mexico was the Rondo for piano, which I
include here. I thank John Koegel for making this piece available to me.
The Rondó was delivered in three fascicles, one real and a half each.
For voice and piano.
By the time Herz arrived in Mexico, opera was already the preferred genre of
Mexican dilettanti. The theatre presented fragments of operas by Bellini and
Donizetti as part of its programme almost every night. Parts of Norma, I puritani,
Lucrezia Borgia, Lucia di Lammermoor, La sonnambula and Il pirata were presented
in the theatre during 1849, before Herz’s arrival. When Ullman’s posters appeared—
he was supposed to bring an operatic company, as well as Henri Herz—expectations
ran high. An article in the papers celebrated the fact that it was very likely Ullman
would come to an agreement with the manager of the National Theatre to bring the
opera company as well because, according to the writer, since ‘we have not had a
decent opera company since 1836’.53 This was, of course, as we have demonstrated
in Chapter Four, an exaggeration or rather an outright lie, for opera companies had
come to Mexico or were formed in Mexico practically non-stop since Manuel
García’s visit.
During the very year of 1849 the piano manufacturer Pleyel opened a sales
office in Mexico.54 The announcement applauded its ‘piano fortes’, ‘whose welldeserved fame is due to the power and clarity of sound’. It also stressed the fact that
the pianos were ‘especially destined for Mexico’ so they were built ‘to resist all
kinds of climates that are usually adverse to the instruments’ longevity’.55 Mr Isidoro
Devaux fuelled the snobbish Mexican elite’s illusion of living in Europe by
advertising that he was ready to take orders from Mexican buyers ‘who will be
satisfied with the same expediency and zeal, as if the buyers were themselves in
Paris’.56 Herz too was interested in selling pianos in Mexico. According to the
promotional article published in El Álbum Mexicano, Herz was the director of ‘the
royal factory of pianos’ that ‘have been adopted by the Conservatoire [because] they
are the best of all.’57 The factory’s revenues were not as thriving as this text would
have us believe, because we know that the main aim of his American tour was to
El Universal, 23 June 1849. The newspaper refers here to Filippo Galli’s opera company. Although
simultaneously to Herz’s presentation, Anna Bishop was in Mexico presenting many of the Mexicans’
favourite operas.
By this time the company was in the charge of pianist Camille Pleyel, after the retirement in 1824 of
her father Ignaz.
El Siglo XIX, 11 May 1849.
El Álbum Mexicano, 214. Although we suspect a grain of exaggeration in this account, we know
that Herz’s pianos did indeed achieve great popularity and fame and were highly appreciated in
Europe and exported to the Americas. To this day his pianos are found to be sold over the internet at
considerable prices; I have found ads from France, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Spain for Henri Herz
pianos, as well for those of Philippe Henri Herz, his nephew, who continued the business.
collect money to finance his business, including selling as many pianos as he could
along the way. In the U.S., he was apparently quite successful in marketing his
pianos by establishing a network of agents to distribute them.58 In Mexico,
negotiations to sell pianos were not as easy and, as we learn from a letter to his
brother, Herz conducted them himself. He sold one instrument to the politician
Ignacio Trigueros, Minister of Treasury during Santa Anna’s regime—who was one
of the negotiators with the Americans during the Mexican-American war—and
probably a couple of more; but being far away from France and not being able to
deliver pianos promptly put his sales at risk, as we learn from Herz’s desperate
instructions to his brother Charles in Paris.59 As a promotional device, he did not fail
to announce that he was playing a Herz piano from his own factory, both on his U.S.
and his Mexican tours. Herz pianos’ fame grew especially in later years, when they
won gold at the Exposition Universelle of 1855. The French musician and writer
Oscar Comettant’s fascination with the person and the pianos that Herz built, is
reflected in the grandiloquent quasi-liturgical phrase: ‘Henri Herz is the God of the
piano in three persons: the virtuoso, the composer and the manufacturer’. The quality
of his pianos is attested by the text that accompanied Herz’s awards ceremony at the
Exposition: ‘Perfection across all areas of the piano, power and equality of tone,
mechanical precision, and strength [of construction]’.60
Regarding the repertoire Herz performed at the theatre, one detects his
progressive acquaintance with Mexicans’ musical tastes and favourite repertoires. As
was customary, in his first concert the pianist included in his programmes arias from
operas then fashionable in Europe: Lucrezia Borgia, Lucia di Lamermoor and
Torcuato Tasso by Donizetti, and Le Pré aux Clercs by Ferdinand Hérold;61 but Herz
also showcased many of his own compositions, including his Second Concerto for
piano. As supporting artists he also hired one of the most famous Mexican singers,
María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío, and the local orchestra conducted by José María
Lott, From Paris, 91-92.
Letter from Henri Herz to his brother Charles, Mexico, 20 Sept. 1849, Bibliothèque Nationale de
France, Musique, l.a. Henri Herz., no 49. Herz gives detailed instructions in prices and limits for the
discounts his brother could make. Apparently Charles had the tendency to give lower prices on the
pianos of those Herz approved of.
Oscar Comettant, La Musique, les musiciens et les instruments de musique chez les différents
peuples du monde (Paris : Michel Lévy frères, 1869), 690. Comettant was part of the jury of pianos at
international exhibitions.
Ferdinand Hérold (1791–1833) was a French operatic composer of Alsatian descent who also wrote
many pieces for the piano, orchestra, and the ballet. He is best known today for the overture to the
opera Zampa and the ballet La fille mal gardée.
Chávez. Despite the fact that he really had no other choice, the press celebrated his
decision to reward local talent. In the following concerts, he also performed
selections from I puritani and Norma by Bellini, Il barbiere di Siviglia and Otello by
Rossini, among other works. All these programme selections served to please a
public that was used to miscellaneous concerts and that loved opera above all.
Herz’s repertoire patterns changed almost as soon as his visit began. In the
programmes Ullman gave the papers prior to the concerts, we see that Herz
progressively incorporated more operatic arias and shorter piano pieces in his
programmes, in place of more demanding concert pieces (See Appendix A, p. 296).
For instance, in the first concert he played in Mexico at La Lonja, he had announced
a gruelling programme heavily dependent upon his own piano resources: in the first
part he played his three-movement Second Piano Concerto, Concerto Serioso; in the
second part, a Grand Romantic Fantasy on themes from Lucia di Lamermoor for
piano solo and his Bravura Brilliant Variations on themes by Le Pré aux Clercs;
finally he exhausted his audience with three pieces of his own composition but
played by the orchestra alone, Las Elegantes (brilliant quadrille), La Polka del Siglo
and Los Segadores (waltz). There were only three (unidentified) voice pieces
interspersed during the concert. For the second concert (9 August 1849), Ullman
published two completely different programmes: the first, two days before, and the
second on the day itself. In the first, Ullman included Herz’s Piano Concerto No. 4,
complete and with orchestra, in addition to the Rondo Russo presumably by
Mercadante. These pieces were cut from the second programme, however, indicating
a series of ‘adjustments’ towards the ‘lighter’ side of things. Taking into account the
predominantly feminine public and its interest in transferring the concert experience
into their salon, Herz included shorter piano pieces that, in addition, were later sold
to those interested: his own Les Entraînantes (quadrilles) and La Polka del Siglo.
To charm his Mexican audiences Herz also displayed the standard practices
of touring virtuosi, such as playing a different programme for each concert, often
with invited musicians, presenting twenty pianists on stage, or improvising on local
tunes—practices that he had successfully used while in the U.S.62 According to
Loesser the ‘multi-piano vogue lasted for twenty-five years or so’ in Europe, starting
In New York he played Semiramide arranged for sixteen pianists on eight pianos, to the public’s
delight. See Lott, From Paris, 63.
in the mid 1820s.63 By 1849, this fashion was probably seeing its last days in Europe,
while in Mexico it was only just beginning. For his third and fourth Mexican
concerts, Herz invited Dutch violinist Franz Coenen (1826-1904), whom he had met
in the U.S., to join him.64 In Mexico Coenen played virtuoso pieces in the Paganini
fashion, such as Mélancolie, by Prume, his own Bravura Variations on a Sentimental
Theme with a Brilliantisimo Finale in Tremolo, Carnival de Venise by Paganini, and
El ave en el árbol (‘The bird on the tree’), a work composed by the violinist for his
Mexican audience, according to the announcement.65
As a sharp contrast to the gallant ways of Herz towards his women patrons in
the theatre and salons stands his dealing with professional women musicians. He and
his agent handled them to their advantage and convenience, and, in this case, with no
chivalric regard for their gender. For instance, in his first two concerts in the
National Theatre he hired singer María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío, but by the third and
fourth concerts a certain señorita Mosqueira was singing instead. According to
critical notes in the press, Ullman broke the contract with señorita Cosío, without
paying her any compensation; in addition Herz did not participate in the singer’s
benefit, as was stipulated in the contract.66 There were no gallantries when dealing
with working female musicians and one might even suspect the behaviour towards
them was even harsher than that employed towards men. Since these women were
workers on their payroll, all the gentlemanliness displayed towards his women
patrons in the theatre and outside as clients for his musical products seemed to
The construction of a national (musical) identity: a national anthem
According to contemporary writer, historian and acute observer of Mexican mores,
José María Luis Mora, ‘without a doubt Mexican society in its present state
represents a mixture of the customs of Paris, London and the large cities of Italy with
an essence of Spanish seriousness added in. Its manners also entail an excess of
Loesser, Men, Women, 363-365.
Coenen made his American debut at a Herz’s concert in New York. See Lott, From Paris, 96.
The press critics raved about him and compared him favourably to Ole Bull and Henri Vieuxtemps.
El Siglo XIX, 27 Aug. 1849.
El Tío Nonilla. Periódico Político, Enredador, Chismográfico y de Trueno, I, 7, 30 Sept.1849. Even
El Siglo XIX, usually a publicist of Herz, had to admit the behaviour towards the singer was
ungenerous. They attributed it to Ullman and exonerated Herz from blame. El Siglo XIX, 14 Sept.
1849. We explored the details of this affair in Chapter Three.
refinement, as in tastes in dress, sumptuous furniture, dances, performances, music
and even painting; all this despite the city [still] being in its infancy’.67 Mexican
identity had to reconcile, by force, the tension between this Europe-oriented elite and
the calls for democratization stemming from the lower classes, who were part and
parcel of the success of the quest for independence. As we have seen, this set of
tensions came to the surface during the La Lonja episode, but Herz’s influence
extended to issues of identity-building in Mexico.
Herz proposed to create a national anthem, to open ‘a public school of music
[that would operate] with the same curriculum as the famous Paris Conservatoire’,
and to compile an album of national songs (sonecitos). Needless to say the first
proposal was neither accomplished nor even started given the short duration of the
musician’s visit. It raises the question of whether Herz contemplated staying longer
in Mexico or whether it was only a publicity device. To the second of these
proposals, that of composing a national anthem for Mexico, we devote our attention
now and finish with a comment on the third of his projects. In the anthem’s case, as
in the La Lonja series’, the process is more telling than the ultimately deficient result:
a National March rather than an anthem. The process is also revealing of the
multiplicity of meanings and even results a (musical) act can generate, and the
potential semantic loss when read univocally. As we shall see, Herz without a doubt
pursued his own financial interests and acted literally and figuratively as a musical
mercenary in the U.S.-Mexican war by exploding the inflamed patriotism on both
sides of the border–and by reusing music as he saw fit. His endeavour, however,
generated mechanisms of national symbol-production which were pursued by the
Mexican elite in order to reinforce the collective imaginary of the nation.
According to a newspaper article with the title ‘Himno Nacional’, ‘most
nations have one [anthem] that can never be heard with indifference’. Behind the
article stood Herz and Ullman, who reminded Mexicans that anthems fill troops with
courage and boldness ‘and no one is unaware of the triumphs achieved in the last
century, during the French Revolution, due to Rouget de L’Isle’s anthem’. They
proposed ‘to fill that void by inviting local poets to present their poetic work as part
of a competition, from which the best one would emerge and to which Herz would
compose the music’. The musician and his manager were clearly conscious of the
José María Luis Mora, ‘Costumbres mexicanas’, Calendario de Galván, (Mexico, 1835).
wounded Mexican nationalistic spirit resulting from the Mexican-American war and
thus of the likelihood of raising enthusiasm for the project. An anthem might even
change Mexico’s military fate in the future, the article hinted.
Mexicans were ready to endorse this project, which provided an internal
boost of national enthusiasm in the wake of their defeat to the Americans. At the
same time the symbolic value of a national anthem was certainly not lost on the
Mexican elite. It was one more distinctive sign of a collective identity being forged
internally, and one that could be demonstrated externally to friends and foes. The
calamitous U.S.-Mexican war had taken place barely a year before Herz’s visit, and
left national pride still hurt. The group that surrounded Herz realised, however, the
semantic difficulty of investing a passing Austro-French pianist with such an
important symbolic responsibility. It is in this context that we should situate an
article by Herz in which he endows himself with a temporary Mexican nationality.
The article can also be understood as a vehement reaction by the pianist’s supporters
resistance to the idea of an anthem being composed by a European national:
The illustrious artist wishes to be considered as Mexican during his stay in our
country, and wants to leave a perennial token of the appreciation he professes to us.
We are extremely grateful for such a commendable testimony of recognition and we
have the satisfaction of being the first ones to thank him, and we hope that once the
idea is realized, that anthem will soon become popular and will serve to excite our
joy in the public festivities and to make our warriors enter combat with audacity and
courage. (5.4, p. 314)
Mexican nationals of all groups probably would not have so readily endorsed Herz’s
project had they known that the virtuoso had already profited from war-induced
nationalism from the side of the Mexican enemy! While in the U.S., Herz composed
a piece named Variations brillantes et grande fantaisie sur des airs nationaux
américains, ‘a hodgepodge of patriotic tunes expected to be composed by every
visiting artist’. 69 Through this work Herz exploited the American patriotism incited
(also) by its war with Mexico, as Allen Lot affirms. The piece was based on three
American tunes: ‘Jackson’s March’, ‘Hail Columbia’, and ‘Yankee Doodle’.70 In
fact, during the war, when Herz was touring in the U.S.A, the pianist had openly
celebrated the victories of the American army on Mexican territory, all of which
El Siglo XIX, 24 July 1849.
Lot, From Paris to Peoria, 81.
Ibid., 82.
involved extremely painful defeats for Mexico, with musical pieces, or rather a
musical piece. According to Lott, the said piece was renamed in different concerts
while in the U.S. as ‘Victory of Vera Cruz…expressly composed on that occasion’ or
‘The Battle of Buena Vista…expressly composed in honour of that event’—both
important battles the Americans won in Mexico, or even ‘The Return of the
Volunteers. A Heroic National Fantasia’. Incidentally, on each occasion, the piece
was announced as a premiere performance. The considerable distances between
American cities were he performed gave the opportunist Herz a certain confidence
that his audiences would be different on each occasion and, in any case, he was
probably ready to face the risk due to the short visits and the extensive travelling
between concerts.
El Siglo XIX urged the Academia de Letrán (Letrán Academy) to summon the
poets who were to write the lyrics for the anthem, as well as the jury in charge of
selecting the best poetry.71 The Academia de Letrán was founded in 1836 by
literature teacher José María Lacunza and his pupils with the aim of furthering a
worthy national literary expression.72 It became an intellectual centre for literary
creation that spearheaded the nationalist movement in literature and that admitted
divergent currents of political thought including liberals and conservatives.73 This
institution, dormant during the years of the U.S.-Mexican war (in which some of its
members fought), became iconic of the Romantic-foundational literature of the midnineteenth century. The quest for the national anthem’s lyrics pulled them out of
inactivity after the difficult years of war.
Mexicans took on Herz’s initiative by creating a ‘Patriotic Council’. On 8
August 1849 the papers announced that the ‘Patriotic Council’ had determined to
create two commissions, one to visit the Academia de Letrán and another to visit
Herz, with the aim of respectively crafting the lyrics and the music of the national
anthem. The ambitious —not to say unrealistic— aim set by the Council was to have
the piece ready for the celebrations of Mexican independence on 15 and 16
September to be held at the University and the National Theatre, respectively. These
El Siglo XIX, 5 Aug. 1849.
Among its members were renowned Mexican writers of the Romantic generation such as Andrés
Quintana Roo, Guillermo Prieto, Ignacio M. Altamirano, and later Manuel Carpio, José Joaquín
Pesado and Ignacio Ramírez. Guillermo Prieto, one of the founding members, left a detailed
description of the founding and the events surrounding the institution, in the book Memorias de mis
tiempos, prol. by Horacio Labastida, 3rd ed., Sepan Cuantos 481 (Mexico: Porrua, 2004), 94-145.
In 1856 internal dissensions culminated in the dissolution of the Academia.
dates, which correspond to the beginning of a popular revolt led by Miguel Hidalgo
in 1810, were set as official commemoration days after independence. To present the
anthem to the public for the first time on those dates would be to confer both the
anthem and the dates with the symbolic value required for engraving them
permanently into collective memory.
Conscious of the limited time left, council members urged the Academia to
get to work immediately on the invitation to the poets, and they assured the public
that ‘Regarding Mr Herz, it is certain he will honour his generous promise [to write
the music]’.74 The Academia de Letrán followed the recommendation and called a
meeting for 13 August, in order to define the terms of the poetry competition for the
national anthem. At the same time, a commission visited Herz in his hotel to discuss
the matter of the project’s music.75 On the following day the Academia published a
public appeal directed ‘to all persons inside and outside of the capital who would like
to write a national anthem, whose music is to be composed by Mr. Herz’. The
deadline was fixed for 31 August, a limit that granted interested candidates a little
over two weeks, and the results were to be published the following evening, 1
September.76 The tight schedule was nearly followed, for on 6 September the
Academia published the results of the poetry competition. The tone of the
announcement proved remarkably reserved, however, and its tenor was far from the
exultant patriotism one might expect from an occasion so significant to the nation’s
Since the idea of composing a national anthem was born, we have reached the
conclusion that something was asked of art which it could not deliver, that it is
something that is born of the circumstances of the peoples, contemporary only to
their moments of enthusiasm, and that is consecrated by the memory of grand
actions, or by the solemnity generated by glorious memories or persons.77 (5.5, pp.
El Siglo XIX, 8 Aug. 1849; El Monitor republicano, 9 Aug. 1849.
Ibid., 10 Aug. 1849; El Monitor republicano, 12 Aug. 1849.
Ibid., 14 Aug. 1849. The evaluating committee was composed of distinguished writers and public
personalities such as José María Lacunza, Joaquín Pesado, Manuel Carpio, Andres Quintana Roo and
Alejandro Arango y Escandón.
Ibid., 6 Sept. 1849.
The Academia de Letrán thus reluctantly announced the resulting winners as Andrés
Davis Bradburn,78 in first place, and Félix María Escalante, in second place.
Furthermore, the Selection Committee of the National Anthem stressed that the
selected piece ought not to be regarded as a national anthem, ‘because it was
impossible for it to be considered as one, since, under the circumstances already
indicated [of haste and necessity], it would only be a piece that, at the most, would be
the expression of the author’s patriotism and testimony of his genius’. The judges
emphasized that theirs was the choice of a poem most suited to be sung during
national functions and one ‘the nation could adopt as its expression of union or war,
and that could be transmitted to future generations of Mexicans by striking a chord in
their hearts’.79 The dissatisfaction of the members of the Academia de Letrán is
indicative of the pressure they faced having had to produce a suitable poem for an
anthem in such short time (since Herz was soon to leave Mexico) and for such a
symbolically-charged celebration as national independence. The publication of the
contest’s results amounted to a declaration ‘under protest’. The poetical-patriotic
value the poets and writers from the Academia invested in a national anthem stood at
odds with the political opportunism of the organising board, and certainly with the
barely-hidden financial motivations of Herz himself. This practical dismissal of the
anthem’s lyrics acted as a bleak omen for the music (not) to be composed by Herz.
According to the planned schedule, Herz had two weeks to write the music
for the national anthem. Probably to no-one’s surprise, the composition was not
finished on time and was not performed on the intended occasion. Herz did,
however, deliver a ‘National March’—initially also called ‘Military’ in the
newspaper— which was premiered at a concert on 12 September 1849. This was in
fact several days before the deadline for the anthem. By then, Herz, whose concerts
at the National Theatre had been received with praise by the Mexican public, was
ready to give a flamboyant performance, which the newspapers announced as
‘monster concert’, of which one of the main pieces was to be the ‘March’. Minding
his virtuoso business, Herz paid no heed to the solemn formality that the
inauguration of a National Anthem, or March in this case, should have entailed. The
piece was advertised in the press, not by Ullman and Herz, but by a group of ‘artists,
Interestingly, Andrés Davis Bradburn was the son of an English officer who came to Mexico with
the expedition against Spanish rule with Spanish insurgent Francisco Javier Mina in 1817, an
expedition that was organized and financed from England.
El Siglo XIX, 6 Sept. 1849.
professors of piano’ who promised a paraphernalia as yet unseen in the Mexican
A Military March that will be played for the first time was composed and dedicated
to the Mexicans by Henri Herz.
This beautiful piece, whose dedication shall be kindly received as a small
token of his profound recognition of the generosity with which his efforts to please
have been appreciated: it will be played on twelve pianofortes, by twenty pianists,
with double orchestra, military band, men’s choir, under the direction of Henri Herz,
who shall play during the performance, a brilliant variation on his Trio.80 (5.6, p.
A brief note at the end of the paper’s advertisement clarifies a point that Mexicans
might have wondered about at the time: ‘The National March should not be confused
with the National Anthem, for which he [Herz] has been given the lyrics, and whose
composition will be completed as soon as possible’. It must have been hard to
understand why Herz would invest all his time and energy in presenting a National
March, just days before the official presentation of the anthem at the celebration of
Mexican independence. In retrospect, we can appreciate that he had given up on the
idea of the anthem and was compensating for it in advance. The bombastic
presentation of the ‘March’, including the involvement of twenty pianists, choir, and
military band, was simply a clever way to feed the public’s enthusiasm and
patriotism and to divert attention away from the anthem.
The concert delivered what it has promised: a full spectacle of staged,
militaristic patriotism. However, the ‘March’ caused in some reporters ambivalent
reactions that reflected painful contemporary feelings on war and its related matters.
These responses must have been partly responsible for the printed version of the
‘Military March’ being renamed, more neutrally, as ‘National March’, when it was
later printed for home consumption. The reporter for El Siglo XIX was deeply moved
by the ‘March’ but expressed his doubts as to whether it was an original composition
or not.
Twelve pianos, twenty pianists, a military band and a double-sized orchestra played
the Mexican military march, which, we had been assured, was composed in this
capital city by Mr Herz. Whether or not it was crafted in this capital, the piece is of
great merit, it is extraordinarily moving, it generates reactions in the nervous system,
and therefore it will be a work most suited to being performed for the regiments and
for the National Guard. A drum roll was the sign for a soldiers’ company to move,
Ibid., 10 Sept. 1849.
and they sang the March without it being heard, for the torrent of harmonies not only
caused their voices to be drowned but also the theatre to vibrate. While the choir of
the national guards appeared from all sides of the performance hall, a multitude of
tri-coloured [national] flags appeared and were cheered with bravos and applause by
the audience. (5.7, p. 315)
In a different report, the unease produced by the ‘March’ was extended to a general
reflection on Mexico’s pathetic situation. There was really no reason to celebrate
from a military point of view. Therefore, despite its energetic character, the ‘March’
made this writer feel melancholic:
The Military March, a beautiful composition, musically speaking, and well
performed, caused in me the opposite effect than in the rest of the public; it made me
sad. Mexicans should leave these warlike and merry songs for other times when we
have reasons for intoning them: today we must be silent, and gather our hatred for
the day, if it ever comes, when we can avenge them.82 (5.8, p. 315)
Before the enormous enthusiasm generated by Herz’s composition cooled off,
Ignacio Cumplido’s Siglo XIX published an announcement indicating that the editor
of the paper had bought the rights to publish the ‘National March’ from Mr. Herz,
and it pompously stated that ‘[t]he main aim of this purchase is to produce a
handsome edition, that will correspond to the merits of the composition’.83 The note
in the paper is indicative of the widespread popularity Herz’s ‘March’ was already
enjoying in the wake of the ‘monster concert’ and before its official publication. In a
statement, which was unprecedented with regard to this or any other piece, Cumplido
condemned the practice of piracy as had already taken place with Herz’s ‘National
The editor is aware that some people have sold a printed version of the National
March and have thereby violated the right of property and the law that protects it.
Besides being an act of robbery, for which the guilty will eventually be charged, the
purchasers are going to be widely disappointed, for the National March that is sold to
Ibid., 14 Sept. 1849.
El Monitor Republicano, 17 Sept. 1849. The writer reproduces the lyrics of the March and
comments that they seemed ‘a bit depressing’ to him. For Herz ‘the show must go on’, and
immediately after the ‘monster concerts’ he journeyed to other Mexican towns where he frequently
repeated the ‘March’ to great success with different ensembles according, probably, to what was
available in each town. For instance, in Guanajuato he played it with eight pianos ‘causing such
excitement that in both concerts he had to repeat it three times’. El Siglo XIX, 29 Nov. 1849.
Ibid., 23 Sept. 1849.
them is highly defective, lacking the corrections made to the version that will be
published by this establishment.84 (5.9, p. 315)
As for Herz, he not only dismissed the musical value of the piece but also made clear
that the only value he ascribed to it was monetary. In a letter that he wrote to his
brother in France, he quoted the exorbitant fee he thought he could ask for it if
published in Mexico:
Have I told you about the Mexican National March that I played at my last concert
with 24 pianists, a chorus of 50, an orchestra, two military bands, 48 flags… ? This
joke was amazingly effective and I believe I could sell the copyright for this little
march for 1000 francs.85 (5.10, p. 315)
Whether Cumplido paid this humongous price or not, we do not know, but he most
certainly paid a considerable amount of money in order to get the rights to print the
piece. While Herz was on tour, the editor began working on the home edition of the
‘National March’. Proofs went back and forth between the musician and Cumplido in
the following months. Finally, at the end of November 1849, Cumplido announced
that the latest proof of the ‘National March was to the composer’s satisfaction, and
he quoted Herz as having (rather superciliously) said that he was ‘very pleased with
the edition, which would be welcomed even in Paris’. Cumplido assured the public
that he would publish the ‘National March’ the following week; a promise he did
indeed carry out.86
Once the ‘March’ was taken into Mexican hands to be printed and
disseminated, its monetary value was raised to conform to its symbolic value, as was
portrayed in Cumplido’s edition. The one-peso edition was not, as Cumplido stated,
‘sold at a moderate price in order to make it accessible to all classes of society’—for
in fact other sheet-music editions were half its price—but it was, by all means, lavish
and grandiloquent. The publication was intended to entice the discerning public;
those who acquired the original edition would get the extra bonus of a remarkable
image on the title page, compared to those who were complicit in the ‘March’s’
piracy that Cumplido complained about. If, from Herz’s point of view, this ‘March’
Ibid., 29 Nov. 1849.
Letter from Henri Herz to his brother Charles, Mexico, 20 Sept. 1849, Bibliothèque Nationale de
France, Musique, l.a. Henri Herz., no 49.
The first announcement of the piece’s sale came out on 6 Dec. 1849 in El Siglo XIX, exactly a week
after the announcement was made. On 10 December Cumplido placed a new advertisement where the
price of one peso is given for the ‘Marcha’ in the capital and nine reales (just over 1 peso) elsewhere
was a ‘blague’ (a joke), for Mexicans, this composition, especially in the lavish
edition presented by Cumplido, was a manifestation of patriotic values by means of a
local iconography. The printed edition of the ‘March’ symbolically transformed
music into a key actor in the movement of the construction of a national identity.
Figure 34. Title page of Marcha Nacional dedicada a los Mexicanos op. 166
by unknown artist [J. Campillo?] for piano and voice by Henri Herz,
published by Ignacio Cumplido (México, 1849).
The title-page’s illustration of Cumplido’s edition of the “March” displays an
assortment of classic and patriotic symbols: the national eagle devouring a snake, a
proud Mexican soldier holding his bayonet, a cherub blowing —or trying to— six
elongated trumpets at a time, together with a Roman Victory offering a crown,
perhaps of olive or laurel leaves, to the Mexicans, in a parallel gesture to that of
Herz’s title. While the illustration renders explicit the role men held in the new
republic as defenders of the nation, the same did not hold true for women, whose
only representation was that of an exotic, from the Mexican point of view, (seminaked) Roman goddess. The title itself is framed by a stereotyped Mexican landscape
that includes palm trees and different types of cactus —Mexico’s national plant— as
well as a collection of weapons from diverse time-periods bundled with an elegant
ribbon, in the characteristic iconographic fashion of the time. By carefully looking
behind the weapons, one can notice the remains of some unidentifiable MexicanIndian monuments, which, positioned at the base of the picture, serve as the
metaphor for the Indian roots of this new country, which, in turn, the ‘National
March’ was to celebrate.
In fact, the ‘National March’ as materialised in Cumplido’s sumptuous
edition was the iconic representation of Mexico’s glorious entrance to the community
of nations, with its considerable share of local elements as an affirmation of local
pride. Cumplido’s rendering of Herz’s piece exhibits what Mary Louise Pratt calls
‘auto-ethnography’.87 Cumplido designed an exoticised image to fit the colonisers’
ideas of Mexico while also displaying icons of Western culture: the Roman column,
cherubim and goddess. He was making a statement both for Mexican and for
potential European buyers of the Marcha Nacional.88
The lyrics for Cumplido’s publication of Herz’s ‘Marcha Nacional Dedicada
a los Mexicanos’ (National March Dedicated to the Mexicans) Op. 166, are the same
as those sung at the ‘monster concert’ and published in the newspaper in a chronicle
of the concert:
Cuando la trompa guerrera
Suene, volad animosos;
De lauros siempre gloriosos
Vuestras frentes coronad.
Combatid siempre ardorosos
Sin partidos, como hermanos,
Por la patria mexicanos,
Y tendréis la libertad.
[When the warlike note
Resounds, fly forth bravely;
Of always glorious laurels
Crown your foreheads.
Always combat ardently
Without sides, like brothers,
For the Mexican fatherland,
And you will have peace] 89
Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 7. See Introduction of the thesis.
When writing this paragraph the computer automatically changed ‘exoticised’, a word unknown to
its dictionary, to ‘eroticised’, which, actually, could also be a suggestive way of interpreting this title
El Monitor Republicano, 17 Sept. 1849.
These are certainly not the competition- winning lyrics by Andrés Davis Bradburn.
The author of these words, used by Herz in his composition, remains anonymous to
this date. Davis Bradburn’s lyrics, which were published only the following year,
exalt an extreme patriotic bellicosity that is absent from the National March’s more
subtle patriotic language. The poem of Davis Bradburn is superior to the rather
simple lyrics of Herz’s ‘March’:
Truene, truene el cañón, que el acero
En las olas de sangre se tiña,
Al combate volemos, que ciña
Nuestras sienes laurel inmortal.
Nada importa morir, si con gloria
Una bala enemiga nos hiere;
Que es inmenso placer al que muere
Ver su enseña triunfante ondear.
Llora un pueblo infeliz su existencia,
Humillada hasta el polvo la frente,
Grande un trono le oprime potente;
Nada es suyo, ni templo, ni hogar.
Mas se eleva grandioso un acento,
Que en el monte y el valle retumba…
Y aquel trono opresor se derrumba,
todo el pueblo ¡soy libre! al clamar.
Truene, truene el cañón, etc.
[National Anthem
Let the cannon resound and resound, and the iron
In the waves of blood be dyed
Let us fly to battle, that it tie
Our immortal temples with laurel,
Dying matters not, if with glory
An enemy bullet should wound us;
What an immense pleasure to him who dies
To see his triumphant sign wave forth.
An unhappy people weep their existence,
Humilliated down to the powder of their foreheads.
Great is the throne that strongly oppresses;
Nothing is his, neither temple nor hearth.
An accent rises grandly
Which resounds in hills and vales
And brings down that oppressive throne.
All the people will shout out: ‘I'm free!’
Chorus]. 90
Music historians have assumed that Herz did indeed compose his anthem after he
finished the ‘National March’. This notion comes primarily from Enrique Olavarría y
Ferrari —one of the first and most frequently-quoted music and theatre historians of
nineteenth-century Mexico— who declared that Herz composed the anthem during
his inland tour, sent it to Cumplido in late November and had it published in early
December.91 As mentioned earlier, what Herz sent to Cumplido in November were
the final proofs of the ‘March’, and not the anthem. Jesús C. Romero,92 Guillermo
Orta Velázquez93 and Gloria Carmona94 among others, have taken Olavarría y
Ferrari’s statement to be true. The only exception is Esperanza Pulido, who in 1985
suggested that the anthem and the march were one and the same thing. Pulido did not
provide any proof but she did argue, rightly, that the musical composition of the
‘March’ preceded that of the lyrics for the anthem.95 Indeed, this is a crucial point.
By the time Herz composed and played his ‘March’, he had not yet seen Bradburn’s
lyrics, and after the ‘March’ was played and Herz was preparing it for publication
while touring the country, he was no longer involved with the Mexico anthem
El Siglo XIX, 23 Jan. 1850. These lyrics were never set to music by Herz who, in January, was still
touring the country.
Enrique Olavarría y Ferrari, Reseña histórica del teatro en México 1538-1911, vol. I, prol. by
Salvador Novo, 3rd ed. (Mexico: Porrúa, 1961), 487. The first edition was published in 1885-1890,
slightly before Olavarría y Ferrari, Lucio Marmolejo in his Efemérides Guanajuatenses, Vol. III
(Guanajuato, 1884), 285 wrote that Herz’s anthem did exist but ‘It was not well received owing that
the author completely ignored the Spanish language, and he was unable to accommodate his music to
the verses which were given him. He ruined the prosody horribly; in addition to this, the hymn is
longer than a popular song need be since it should be simple and easy.’ Quoted by Jesús C. Romero
‘Un israelita en la historia musical de México,’ Tribuna Israelita, 89 (Mexico, 1952), 18-19. He was
perhaps thinking of the ‘March’, whose imperfect coordination of music and lyrics Esperanza Pulido
has also noted.
Romero ‘Un israelita,’ 18-19. Romero brings to light an interesting fact: Herz’s Jewish roots. It is
likely that he did so in order to get his article published by a newspaper within the Mexican Jewish
Guillermo Orta Velásquez, ‘En torno a la composición del Himno Nacional Mexicano’,” Álbum el
[sic] Himno Nacional Mexicano, quoted in Daniel Molina Álvarez and Karl Bellinghausen, Más si
osare un extraño enemigo….CL aniversario del Himno Nacional Mexicano. Antología
conmemorativa. 1854-2004 (Mexico: Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México/Editorial Océano,
2004), 84.
Gloria Carmona, La música de México, I. Historia. 3. Periodo de la Independencia a la Revolución
(1810 a 1910), ed. Julio Estrada (Mexico: UNAM/Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 1984), 47.
Esperanza Pulido, ‘Marcha Nacional dedicada a los Mexicanos Compuesta por Henri Herz, op.
166,’ Heterofonía 17, 88 (1985), 45-52.
The most recent book on the history of the Mexican national anthem, by
Daniel Molina Álvarez and Karl Bellinghausen, lavishly edited for the official
national anthem’s 150th anniversary, contends that Herz’s hymn was ‘finished at the
end of November [1849]’. Under the title ‘Himno Nacional’, the authors provide the
complete winning lyrics of the 1849 competition giving the following credits: ‘Henry
[sic] Herz, music. Andrés David Bradburn, lyrics’. 96 The supposed music of this
early Mexican anthem, which the authors situate as a precedent to the official 1854
anthem by Francisco Bocanegra and Jaime Nunó, is nowhere to be seen in the book.
In fact Bradburn’s lyrics remained without music. It is thus important to set the
record straight: the closest Henri Herz got to write a Mexican national anthem was
the ‘National March’, for which he did not use the winning lyrics of the competition
for a national anthem, but someone else’s. The lyrics Herz used, whose author is to
us unknown, are ad hoc to a shorter, characteristic march. It seems, in fact, that they
are actually ad hoc to a preexisting music.
Not only did Herz fail to compose the national anthem he had proposed but,
as the unnamed critic from El Siglo XIX suspected, he did not even compose an
original score for the ‘National March’. As we learn from a letter to his brother in
France, the version he delivered to the Mexicans stemmed from a different occasion
during his time in New York:
The government has just struck a gold medal in my honour and that of the Mexican
National March (which, between ourselves, I had composed in New York—oh the
comedy of it ! 97 (5.11, p. 315)
It is a fact that salon composers’ practice of recycling music was quite common at
the time, and they did so with a considerable degree of cynicism, as Herz’s words
prove. What makes this instance remarkable is that this was a project to write the
most sacrosanct of secular songs: the national anthem, a venture proposed,
furthermore, by the Austro-French pianist himself. The fact is that the ‘March’ lived
Molina Álvarez, Más si osare un extraño, 84-85. In this section he quotes Orta Velázquez. Molina
Álvarez writes a sketch of Herz’s Mexican tour that is practically copied verbatim from Carmona,
even including the illustrations she used.
Letter from Henri Herz to his brother Charles, Mexico, 20 Sept. 1849, Bibliothèque Nationale de
France, Musique, l.a. Henri Herz., no 49.
its own life well into the late nineteenth century, satisfying for years to come
Mexico’s patriotic and symbolic musical needs.98
Herz incursion in Mexican folk music
The Romantic penchant for folklore as a means of constituting national identity is
well-known.99 In addition to the National Anthem episode, Herz explored other ways
of bringing the local into play by including harmonised Mexican tunes in his last
concerts and thus playing with the quest for Mexican national identity he so astutely
perceived and exploited. The elite group that backed the pianist expected him to do
this as an additional recognition of the value of Mexico’s local music and its capacity
to become (international) concert music via the appropriate hands and procedures.
The practice of transforming local material into concert songs or salon pieces was
popularized by foreign visiting musicians, and became widely held among Mexican
musicians in the decades to come. In 1844, while visiting the country, the German
cellist Maximilian Bohrer composed Fantasía sobre sonecitos populares mexicanos
y españoles [Fantasy on Mexican and Spanish popular sonecitos] for cello and piano
and played it in the theatre together with Mexican pianist Vicente Blanco.100 That
same year the Irish violinist, pianist and composer William Vincent Wallace, also
visiting the country, published in Mexico a piano piece advertised as: ‘La Mexicana.
Wals nuevo compuesto por W. V. Wallace’ [The Mexican Woman. A Waltz
In fact, for several more decades at least, it was to enjoy greater luck than what became the
country’s official national anthem composed finally in 1854. The latter had an ill-fated birth, because
it was commissioned by dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna. Due to its politically incorrect origin,
it was despised by the subsequent liberal governments which ruled the country during the 1850s and
1860s. Even a conservative president like Miguel Miramón completely ignored it and during his rule
adopted Herz’s composition. In a ceremony he held at the Teatro Principal, Herz’s March was played
as the national anthem in place of the official one. It was not until the government of Porfirio Díaz,
also a dictator, who ruled Mexico from 1877 to 1880 and from 1884 to 1911, that Mexico officially
assumed the National Anthem which remains the same as today. See Molina Álvarez, 19-21. The
‘March’ was probably still in the people’s memory when in the mid-1880s composer Miguel Ríos
Toledano published Aires Nacionales Mexicanos op. 558 (Wagner y Levien Sucs.), dedicated to
president Porfirio Díaz, where he included a long musical quotation, with its respective credit, from
Herz’s ‘Marcha Nacional’.
See, for instance, Richard M. Dorson, ‘The Question of Folklore in a New Nation,’ Journal of the
Folklore Institute 3, 3 [Special Issue: The Yugoslav-American Folklore Seminar] (1966):
‘Circumstances vary from nation to nation, but the promoters of a national self-consciousness,
whether in a republic, a monarchy, an empire, or a socialist state, clearly appear to have recognized
the value and utility of folklore,’ 277. Jean Jacques Rousseau, widely known and read in Mexico, was
one of the first to idealise the ‘folk’, including folksongs. Most notably Herder ascribed a specific
value to the local lore in the constitution of a national identity.
El Siglo XIX, 10 Feb. 1844.
composed by W. V. Wallace]. Charles Bochsa improvised on several occasions on
Mexican sones during his concerts and, like Herz, also composed a national song in
1849-50. At that time, Anna Bishop composed and published La pasadita, based on a
local song, and Franz Coenen, played variations on the Mexican theme ‘el butaquito’
in his concerts. This practice was a good business for them, for they published and
sold these songs in home formats and they were an additional enticement to attract
the public to their concerts, while it was a source of enjoyment and pride for the
Mexican musical community.101
Herz also used local materials to perform in concerts, which was an extremely
agreeable surprise for the public. During one of his last concerts, the chronicler
reports that without a warning Herz started playing the jarabe: ‘Oh, my God! ¡such
delightful variations, such accents of intense pleasure! Such a frank and innocent joy!
[When the jarabe was played] the effect produced in the audience was magical’.102
The journalist could not hide his national pride on hearing local tunes elevated to
concert status: ‘Herz playing the jarabe, the musician from Vienna, protected
disciple of Napoleon, playing a sonecito by the tapatíos and the poblanos? This is an
outstanding event, worthy of mention’.103 The public’s reaction was calculated or at
least hoped-for by Herz and Ullman.104 Herz was probably aware that during the
struggles for Mexican independence the jarabe was used as a symbol for the rebels
and their will to gain freedom from Spain. It is worth calling attention to how much
homework Herz and Ullman did to please the Mexican public, albeit with a
commercial aim in mind. Furthermore, the local colour and political value of the
genre was reflected in the proud definition put forth by the reporter: ‘the most
alluring, most boisterous, most subversive music’. The reporter also introduced the
element of class by underlining the popular value of jarabe in comparison to the
traditionally elitist worth ascribed to concert music: Herz delightfully combined both.
El Cosmopolita, 24 Apr. 1841.
El Siglo XIX, 23 Jan. 1850.
I transcribed the eloquent passage in full in Appendix B (5.12, pp. 315-6), El Siglo XIX, 27 Aug.
According to Enriqueta Gómez, an amateur musician and writer, Herz and Coenen translated the
stanzas of the jarabe into German and made it popular in Germany. I have not been able to verify this
information. Enriqueta Gómez, Páginas musicales (Mexico: Ed. Mi Mundo, 1956), 275. Herz, who
continued the tour to South America alone also collected local tunes in Lima and worked in a national
anthem. He knew the commercial value of these strategies. For the American, Mexicans or Peruvians,
Herz’s doings had their own value. Rodolfo Barbacci, in his Apuntes para un diccionario biográfico
musical peruano (Peru: Fénix, [1950]), briefly describes Herz’s tour in Perú.
In addition to the jarabe, Herz and Ullman displayed a carefully staged
production of Mexican-sounding pieces that were calculated to make the audience
feel involved to the point of being co-authors. During one interval, the ushers
collected pieces of paper onto which people in the audience wrote the names of
suggested tunes. Once the curtain was raised, a little table with a lit candle was seen
by the piano where Mr Zanini, an Italian singer taking part in Herz’s concerts, started
reading the papers delivered by the ushers. The public was going to decide by means
of their applause which songs Herz should improvise on. By this method three of the
most popular sones were chosen: Los enanos, El butaquito and La pasadita. Once
this boisterous process was over, Herz, as the inspired and spontaneous artist, came
on stage, put the themes on the piano’s stand and proceeded to play. A crucial
musical matter remains unresolved: how the names of pieces written on bits of paper
became musical fragments Herz could improvise on. In any event, the public was so
thrilled with Herz playing ‘their music’ that they had to repress their applause and
manifestations of joy in order not to lose a note of what was being played. At the end
there was a riot of hands applauding, feet stamping the theatre’s wooden floor and
voices cheering. The chronicler differentiated the audience’s reactions to the pianist’s
improvisations by gender: ‘men would clap their hands while the beautiful young
ladies would do something better still, laugh, and their eyes and all of their features
expressed content and surprise’.105 Herz was called back onstage and showered with
flowers and bouquets: ‘Mr Herz, visibly moved, picked up the tokens of the glory he
had conquered with his sublime talent’.106
This process was enjoyable because Mexicans of different classes present at
the theatre could hear their national voice almost magically transformed, onstage,
into an international-level utterance. This was the creation of a unifying space of
national celebration with a talented (foreign) guest of honour. The guest’s financial
motivations as well as the grim reality of national destruction and demoralisation
after the war with the U.S. and the colossal task of rebuilding that lay ahead,
remained outside the theatre’s door and could be disregarded for a short time, in
order to celebrate. Herz mesmerised Mexicans into a better reality, however passing,
El Siglo XIX, 27 Aug. 1849. Full quote in Spanish in (5.12, 311-2)
Ibid., 4 Sept. 1849. El Monitor Republicano, 27 Aug. 1849, less ‘Herzian,’ and more pro-Bishop
and Bochsa, than the El Siglo XIX, had to recognize Herz’s immense success with the public in his
foray into Mexican tunes.
and, in a metaphorical, but quite audible way, the virtuoso included Mexico in the
concert of nations.
To crown his efforts regarding local music, Herz proposed to compile a
‘Coleccion de arias mexicanas. Obra de lujo arreglada, corregida y publicada por
Henri Herz’ [Collection of Mexican Arias. A luxury edition arranged, corrected and
published by Henri Herz].107 Here Herz envisaged another window of opportunity for
attracting the public’s interest and gaining money. Ullman confessed in the
announcement that Herz was ‘surprised’ at the beauty of most of the national
sonecitos and that he had realised that so far there existed no edition of them. In this
unwitting declaration of ‘surprise’, Herz implicitly relegated Mexico to a second
class, colonised and primitive nation in musical terms, and as the person being
surprised he situated himself in a ‘superior’ standpoint. But as a benevolent
coloniser, Herz called the natives’ the attention to the beauty of their music and
warned the Mexican people that it risked becoming lost, since it was a spontaneous
manifestation and it circulated only in manuscript. Moreover, Herz proposed to
improve these songs musically —‘to arrange them scientifically’— and to present
them in a luxury edition. This type of edition, of what was to be an Album of national
songs, would certainly have been a novelty in Mexico.108 It was to include
observations about Mexican music, historical notes and allusive poetry. Being the
mastermind of the project but unwilling to do the hard work himself, Herz asked the
locals, ‘music professors and aficionados’, to send him the songs they knew, along
with all related information, to his lodgings at the Hotel del Bazar. In the end,
unsurprisingly given the short time and the opportunism involved, this project, like
the national anthem and the conservatoire, remained another of Herz’s unfulfilled
promises to the Mexican people. Its importance lay in the idea itself, for collections
of local melodies became a standard feature of the following decades in Mexico and
they formed a significant part of the construction of the national aural imaginary,
from where Mexican composers set out to create a musical nationalism at the end of
the nineteenth century and first decades of the twentieth.
El Monitor Republicano, 3 Sept. 1849.
I found an early collection of local songs entitled ‘Colección de 24 canciones y jarabes
mexicanos,’ arranged for piano, edited by Hamburg, publisher J. A. Böhme in 1843. The title in
Spanish leads me to believe it was distributed in Mexico, although the only copy I found is in the
library of Yale University. This interesting collection, which includes a couple of the songs
improvised on by Herz, deserves further investigation.
Henri Herz was the epitome of the virtuoso pianist, which until the mid 1840s
dominated Paris. According to the definition of Katharine Ellis, he was a figure
whose reputation was built largely around performances of his own virtuoso piecesconcertos, concerto movements, and operatic fantasies in particular. Narcissistic and
competitive, he basked in the authority of both complete control over and ownership
of his repertory. He adapted or revised his works in performance and composed in
such a way as to emphasize his technical strengths and mask his deficiencies.
Ellis points out that virtuoso-composers’ performances were described in terms of
‘conquest’. This is especially relevant in our case, because Herz not only set out to
‘conquer’ women’s hearts, but also to establish new institutions: a music
conservatoire, an anthem and a collection of local songs that would guide the
uncivilised Mexicans in the right direction while starting to build their musical,
national self. The same element of a ‘quasi-sexual possession of the audience’ that
Ellis has found for the piano virtuoso in Europe at the time, is transformed in the
virtuoso’s view into a (manly) conquest of the virgin (musical) territories of the
Americas after the 1840s, when, coincidentally, the virtuoso’s star was in decline in
Since the term ‘colonisation’ entails the application of violent methods to
extract richness from a country and, therefore, involves an unequal relationship
where the colonised is subject to exploitation, we need to be cautious in applying it
as a metaphor as in this particular case. Herz embodied a multiplicity of
complementary and conflicting nineteenth-century characters. He acted as a modern
coloniser, an opportunistic and a greedy music impresario, who was at the same time
a Romantic virtuoso musician of astonishing technical prowess, a professor of piano
at the Paris Conservatoire and a piano manufacturer from the City of Light.
Additionally, and not to be forgotten, Mexico was not a colony but an independent
country with three centuries of its own tradition of music and music-making, albeit
within the European sphere of influence. What we have unpicked here is the
multiplicity of values and scenarios derived from the interaction of Mexican postindependence society and a European travelling virtuoso.
Katharine Ellis, ‘Female Pianists and Their Male Critics in Nineteenth-Century Paris,’ Journal of
the American Musicological Society 50, 2/3 (1997), 356-7.
Despite Herz’s own interested agenda regarding women, his emphasis on
salon music, his predilection for composing and playing music for that space and his
defence of it as the privileged, democratised space for music making in modern times
invested that space, which was otherwise was regarded as an unimportant womanly
place, with a new significance. It might be argued that this drive favoured the
publication of sheet music in collections and magazines for salon and thereby
indirectly contributed to revitalise a musical environment that, in itself, was more
stable than the theatres at times of wars and political instability. It is in this regard
that the Austro-French musician played a role in increasing the centrality of women
in music.
Herz and Ullman achieved their main goal with Herz’s Mexican tour: to
return to Paris financially solvent in order to rescue Herz’s piano factory from
imminent bankruptcy and to be able to live comfortably from his tours’ earnings. To
this end, he used all the means at his disposal, regardless of their moral validity,
including the exploitation of Mexican musicians and the taking advantage of the
Mexican public’s willingness to be fascinated, even through deceitful means.
Nevertheless, if one is interested in Mexico’s nineteenth-century construction of
musical identity, as we are, it would be short-sighted to disregard the other effects his
visit had, from the Mexican point of view. Certainly, what Ashcroft describes as ‘the
tendency of colonized peoples to appropriate the formations, discourses and
theoretical strategies of a dominant discourse in making their voice heard’110 is
undeniable in the way the Mexican elite of men and women received Herz’s visit.
The virtuoso helped further Mexican musical life and debate by generating a new
emphasis on salon music and women as well as highlighting issues of identity. Herz
did not, and could not, provide the answers or lead the way to the actual construction
of a Mexican musical identity unannounced, but studying his visit provides some
clues to the initial stages of that process.
Bill Ashcroft, ‘Modernity’s First-Born: Latin American and Post-Colonial Transformation,’ in El
debate de la postcolonialidad en Latinoamérica: una postmodernidad periférica en el pensamiento
latinoamericano, Alfonso de Toro and Fernando de Toro eds., TCCL-Teoría y crítica de la Cultura y
Literatura. Investigaciones de los signos culturales (Semiótica-Epistemología-Interpretación)
(Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert Iberoamericana, 1999), 14.
After independence, professional male musicians gained the freedom, and had
to face concomitant difficulties, that becoming freelance entailed instead of being
full-time employees of ecclesiastical institutions. The transition was rather of a
change in the economic regime that ruled their profession. For women, the secular
musical profession was a new and challenging arena that they had to invent and fight
for, much like the new country. Based on contemporary appraisals, we have
compared these women’s incipient careers with Mexico’s birth as an independent
nation; the metaphor helps us understand their personal/professional development,
their place in their society, and their contribution to the culture of their country.
During the research for this thesis, the reading of primary sources uncovered
that the construction of a national identity impinged on all areas of Mexican life, not
least on the reworking of traditional gender roles. Women were regarded with special
emphasis in this work, since their relationship to the production and reception of
music has been overlooked, their having been regarded as mere jolies meubles de
salon,1 to use a phrase concocted at the time but somehow still present in
contemporary studies of nineteenth-century music history. While women’s musical
talents were, in effect, mainly relegated to private spaces, their participation as
consumers, theatre audiences and quality music performers deserves a second look
that, as proved by this work, might convert them into protagonists rather than simply
decorative elements of musical culture.
The primary sources available—newspapers, journals, sheet-music, literary
works—have had to be exhaustively questioned in order to provide the evidence
necessary to assemble the jigsaw puzzle that emerges from the question of how
women of the upper classes made and used music in Mexico after independence.
Women were omnipresent but mainly portrayed and talked about, frequently without
the chance of employing their own voices directly in order to convey their musical
experiences. Their own writings and compositions, however scarce, proved
especially valuable. It was necessary to perform a culturally situated reading of
different sources in order to allow them to illuminate each other and serve as a basis
for a reconstruction of facts and underlying ideas. We have categorized the
El Cosmopolita, 11 Jul. 1840.
relationships operating between women and music in Mexico between the 1820s and
the 1850s into three types: amateur, semi-professional and professional women
musicians, although the boundaries between these categories were fluid and the
definitions flexible.
Amateur Mexican young women, like those in parts of Europe and the United
States, practised music at home and that music was deemed an essential part of a
girl’s or young woman’s education. Pianos, sheet music—often bound in elegant
albums that the owners put together—, teachers and home soirées were
complemented by attendance at operas in theatres, music in churches and private
concerts. We found that music formed part of the everyday life of these women and
was a way of expressing their sentimental world.
While formal education for women took a long time to be established in the
new country, private musical lessons were considered part of their training as
daughters, wives and mothers; as is revealed by the frequency of advertisements in
the period’s publications. French influence through French schools or Mexican
schools which adopted French curricula seem important in their education, as we
found it was the main reference to European culture regarding women at the time.
French ideas, which were not entirely in tune with the conservative tone of most of
advice articles and manuals for women, also seeped into women’s magazines that
translated articles published recently in France. Texts that advocated, for instance,
the wider participation of women in politics and paid work for women, reached at
least part of the female Mexican elite, opening up their intellectual horizons.
Warnings of the dangers of undertaking music in too serious a fashion were
repeatedly issued, due to the nature of music-making and the passion it arose among
amateurs. In certain cases, when an amateur reached a certain level, music was
difficult to control, and as a result, women’s traditional roles were seen as threatened
by their supposedly excessive attachment to music. These attitudes were associated
with a feminized Romanticism that supposedly caused unacceptable excesses on
women’s part. More than the ‘angel/devil’ dichotomy Leppert and others have found
in the Victorian world, although not altogether absent, in Mexico, it seems that the
traditional patriarchal structures reinforced by the arrival of the criollos to power, are
those shaken most violently by the passion women developed for music and reading.
Music entailed a sentimental and personal development which lay beyond the
traditional housewife role, and reading Romantic novels and articles went against the
prevailing ideology.
Here, the Mexican world based on Spanish, Catholic values, meets the Anglo
Victorian, mainly Protestant, cultural world. The frequent convergence of ideas, as
well as the differences we have found, deserves further study and explanation
concerning the place of and ideas about women in the nineteenth-century West.
Catholic/Protestant, Old World/New World, or centre/periphery theories are
necessary to understand at a deeper level processes of acculturation and resistance.
On a philosophical plane, it would be worth undertaking an axiology that accounts
for the similarities together with the disparities. Such a study would require
additional specific studies in Latin American countries, as the one undertaken here,
which would reinforce similarities or elucidate differences between countries and in
comparison with the European/U.S. worlds.
Regarding the Mexican thread of the women/music relationship, a double
discourse is pervasive, not least in the performing selves of amateur young women.
In order to reconcile the social demands of propriety placed upon young ladies with
the technical ones generated by challenging musical pieces, there was a certain
suspension of rules which allowed women to display their artistic flair and
capabilities while playing these pieces at the piano and then return to their composed
selves thereafter. Men turned a blind eye to the temporary enactment of dexterity and
passion, provided that once women stepped down from the stage they would return
to their regular, subordinated, subdued position.
Additionally, the cover illustrations of sheet-music displayed women as
young, beautiful, and often coquettish and enticing. These covers—often consisting
of irresistibly beautiful images—were alluring for male customers, even though all
those participating in the musical process tacitly agreed that the proper self of the
performing woman should embody propriety and decorum. This moral double
standard ran parallel to the performative one. Beautiful sheet music was not only
permitted at home, but was actually fostered by fathers, suitors or husbands, as a
necessary musical object that would further the praiseworthy (if closely monitored)
musical activities entertained by women. In addition, it seems that the beautiful,
forever young, women on these covers served as a subtle reminder of the fleeting
time granted to real women to undertake music in an absorbing fashion. Upon
marriage, the exceptional status regarding their relationship to music usually came to
an end, at least in the passionate and absorbing manner in which it was allowed
beforehand, and participatory music remained only a minor part of a mature
woman’s social life. Music worked indeed as a ‘compensatory space’ for the
monotony of everyday life, as Richard Leppert has pointed out; but in the liminal
spaces between the performative world of art and everyday unexciting life, it became
an ambiguous place. Music for women can be regarded in a less benevolent light by
looking at the purpose it served within upper class societies whether in eighteenthcentury Germany, or nineteenth-century Mexico, by what Matthew Head has named
a ‘double disciplinary function’ of domestic music . On the one hand, music kept
women at home and on the other ‘deprofessionalized’ musical practice and contained
women in their basic roles as daughter, wife and mother.2
Unsurprisingly given the passion invested and time devoted in musical
practice, some women surpassed the expected boundaries and excelled in music
without entering the professional space entirely: to these we apply the label of ‘semiprofessional’. José Antonio Gómez and Agustín Caballero believed and openly
declared that Mexicans, including women, were exceptionally gifted for musical art
and could excel in it. Both considered their duty to help women achieve this goal.
The two documented cases of semi-professional women unearthed in this thesis were
Gómez’s students: Fernanda Andrade and María Dorotea Losada.
There was no established space for these women in the Mexican professional
musical world, their status being ambiguous. Andrade and Losada appear, in the text
of women’s journals, as outstanding pupils of their mentor. Short published
biographies provide us precious access to their lives. Still, their exceptional musical
skills together with their outstanding quality as pianists were not enough to grant
them admission to the professional world. Not unlike their European counterparts,
however, these women created a world of their own in which to develop, explore and
share their talents. Home concerts were relatively common in Mexico, but in contrast
to European capital cities such as Paris or London, no concert series of chamber
music were organised prior to the 1860s. Such a lack of a professional chamber
music environment apart from opera was an additional factor that limited these semiprofessional women’s possibilities for publicly excelling as pianists. However, there
was an acknowledgement and an appreciation of their talent, for they joined
Matthew Head, ‘“If the Pretty Little Hand Won’t Stretch”: Music for the Fair Sex in EighteenthCentury Germany,’ Journal of the American Musicological Society 52 (1999), 210.
professional musicians in playing opera arrangements in soirées and home concerts,
and partook in religious events alongside their professional colleagues as well. These
are rare cases of female musical personalities who were able to imagine and create a
space that was important in the future professionalisation of women, and whose
trajectories have not been studied until this thesis.
In spite of everything, a few women did become professional musicians
during the 1840s and 1850s. María de Jesús Cepeda y Cosío and Eufrasia Amat, the
two notable cases of Mexican professional singers explored in this work, performed
alongside first-class international voices and sang roles in operas that were well
known and much loved internationally. Agustín Caballero was involved in their
education. They also participated in concerts, benefit performances for actors and
musicians, and in religious and philanthropic events. They managed to live from
their trade, both from the salaries they received and through private lessons.
Although they were fully accepted as professionals, they found themselves in an
exceptional situation. Their working conditions were different—inferior—to those of
their European counterparts. They earned less and sometimes found their workingcontracts broken without explanation. Foreign musical impresarios proved
particularly prone to discriminating against these women; knowing well that by
hiring them in their companies they were giving them a ‘chance’, they considered
that they should be grateful for it. Yet, these women, by themselves, or together with
their mothers, negotiated their contracts with the impresarios and sometimes rejected
contracts that they considered unfair. This was certainly a case of unusual agency for
women of the upper classes or indeed for women in music at all.
In contrast to Andrade and Losada, these professional musicians were singers.
Mexico follows a pan-European model where professional musical careers opened
up first for women as singers, then for keyboard players and belatedly for other
instrumentalists. Paula Gillett has described an ‘informal ban on women’s violinplaying in England’ up to 1870s. 3 In Mexico, we do not know of women publicly
playing instruments other than the piano before 1872, when an Italian harpist,
Paula Gillett, Musical Women in England, 1870—1914: ‘Encroaching on All Man's Privileges’
(Basingstoke: MacMillan, 2000), 77-108.
Rosalinda Sacconi, who had arrived as part of Angela Peralta’s company, delighted
the Mexican public with her virtuosity.4
Esperanza Pulido, a notable Mexican pianist and pioneer researcher on
women, who in 1958 published her work La mujer mexicana en la música [The
Mexican woman in music] found an endogenous reason for the predominance of
singing in professional women. Pulido considered that Mexico kept producing
singing luminaries due to a natural and national gift of voice, and also mentioned
‘the lack of obligation on the part of women to deepen musical studies, either
through the perfect dominion of a concert instrument or, most importantly, through
musical composition skills’. In addition, she wrote, ‘it was a custom that the Mexican
woman, upon marriage, abandoned all other activity outside home chores’. 5
Pulido’s first point is backed by a widespread, still prevalent today, of
Mexicans’ special talent for singing. It is a notion illustrated by the existence of
Mexican singing stars of international renown, male and female, unparalleled in
other musical areas up to this day. The naturalistic predetermination of this argument
would be as hard to prove as to discredit. As to the author’s third comment, it is
worth mentioning that it conceives of marriage as a deterrent to the music profession
on the part of women in the nineteenth century. It is perhaps significant that neither
Cepeda y Cosío nor Amat ever married. Ángela Peralta, an internationally successful
Mexican singer from the 1860s to the 1880s, triumphed despite her marriage, which
got in the way of her career.
Unlike their foreign counterparts, Mexican female singers felt it was their
duty to justify their move into the professional terrain. This included going out of
their way to explain why they took this otherwise unadvisable road. The explanations
of Cepeda y Cosío and Amat are similar: they both went through the loss of a father,
and thus had to provide for their (widowed) mothers in extreme financial need. The
press opened its pages to give voice to the singers to tell these stories, and implicitly
endorsed them. By means of these printed statements women artists’ could acquire
public legitimacy and keep their reputation intact. They needed to whitewash their
Karl Bellinghausen, ‘El suspiro musical de las arpas y arpistas del siglo XIX’’ El arpa de la
modernidad en México: sus historias, eds. Lidia Tamayo and Sergio Tamayo (Mexico: UAM, 2000),
Esperanza Pulido, La mujer mexicana en la música (Mexico: Ediciones de la Revista Bellas Artes,
1958), 88-9.
professional life with an impeccable moral standard rooted in their private lives.
Again, a double standard of sorts was at work.
By telling these stories, the papers underscored one additional and crucial
aspect of the way these women presented themselves publicly: their specifically
Mexican origin. This patriotic device served to justify their appearance on a public
stage but also acted as a call to the Mexican public to take pride in their fellow
compatriots’ performances. The expression ‘our fellow countrywomen’ stuck to their
names and became the ultimate reason why their careers were not only tolerated but
enthusiastically supported. The historical/patriotic determinant made their musical
trajectories acceptable, and therefore audible. As a result, their singing became
secondary to the fact that they could effect a (re)presentation of the homeland at a
time when pride in the nation was sorely needed. This is not a negligible and
certainly an early aspect of Mexican musical profiling: the pride taken in local
(women) performers.
A long way was covered between those amateur women playing at home, and
satirized or even condemned for not complying fully with their domestic obligations,
and professional women who, despite inequalities and double standards, successfully
pursued a professional music career. They took an undeniable first step that provided
a model for future professional women, who could later invoke them to tread further
the professional path.
After independence, Mexico saw the development of a particular new type of
musical life based on an emerging civil society. The difficult circumstances in which
Mexico found herself during these decades, including civil wars and foreign
invasions, political instability, epidemics and lack of resources, were hardly
conducive to development of a thriving musical scene. Musically speaking, we have
explored in this thesis the dynamic interaction of a diverse series of elements,
through which we have reconstructed, imagined and attempted to make sense of the
social fabric of Mexico’s musical world of the time and its role in identity profiling.
Mexicans combined a patriotic pride for their new country with an ambivalent
perception of Europe, which took the form mainly of a fervent admiration and
occasionally of criticism and rejection caused by the unfair and even violent
treatment Mexico received from European powers, or by deep-rooted cultural
differences. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, Mexico was invaded by
European and U. S. A. armies. Although, by and large, Mexican citizens regarded
Europe as a civilizing force, the aggression the latter inflicted, and its imperialistic
power, proved hard to square with that idea. On an artistic level, although Mexicans
revelled in the virtuoso concerts of foreign musicians or Italian opera companies,
they were also aware of cases of unfair treatment of their musicians by European
artists and impresarios. Moreover, Mexican amateurs and professionals, when
confronted with mediocre, underprepared, performances or significant cuts in operas,
saw through the promotional promises of unscrupulous impresarios. However, and at
the same time, they were fascinated by the works and the performers these opera
companies brought along, and through which they were able to hear performances of
Italian bel canto works for the first time. The yearning for opera companies, and the
perception that there were not enough performances, was always looming in
Expectations and assumptions on both sides conformed to preconceived
notions and prejudices that could hardly accommodate reality. Mexicans expected
European musicians to embody and perform an idealized version of the civility and
musical perfection to which Mexicans aspired in their new country. This vision was
flawed because the ‘real Europe’ was quite different from the ‘ideal Europe’. It was
also quite common that foreign visitors regarded Mexico as an imperfect Europe
looked at through Eurocentric lenses. If it followed the right path, this vision
proclaimed, Mexico would reach European standards in due time. ‘Europe’ became
an entity that encompassed ideals, which were frequently at odds with the different
European persons who effectively, and with a variety of purposes, traversed the
Mexican territory. The failure of foreign musicians and impresarios to recognise the
value of the Mexicans’ musical culture was partly due to their own economic
interests, invested in their attitude of ‘capitalist vanguard’, to employ Mary Louise
Pratt’s apt term. ‘Ideologically, the vanguard’s task is to reinvent America as
backward and neglected, to encode its non-capitalist landscapes and societies as
manifestly in need of the rationalized exploitation the Europeans bring’.6 Through
their casual approach to Mexican audiences’ levels of professional tolerance,
impresarios assumed or pretended it was acceptable to act thus in front of an
allegedly ignorant public which they had come to civilize. However, their passing
through the country has additional value when regarded from the Mexican point of
Ibid., 151-2.
view. For instance, visiting musicians saw a value in the local music and
incorporated it in salon and concert pieces, which not only roused the Mexicans’
pride but was also a driving force in local composers’ own exploration of local
sounds in the following decades.
In 1854, René Masson, a French impresario living in Mexico, brought to the country
an outstanding company of Italian singers including the celebrated prima donna
Henriette Sontag. The company, coming from the U. S. A., was the best Mexicans
had heard up to that point and included, alongside Sontag, Claudina Fiorentini as
second prima donna; Carolina Vietti as prima donna contralto; Sidonia Costini as
prima donna comprimaria; Eugenia Barattini as seconda donna ; tenors primos
assolutos Gaspar Pozzolini and Mr. Arnoldo; baritone, Cesar Badiali; basses Mr.
Rocco and Nicola Barilli; basso buffo, Eliodoro Specchi and second tenor Timoleon
Barattini. With them came Giovanni Bottesini as ‘maestro compositor’. Masson put
together an orchestra which, he claimed, included the best musicians he could find
across the country.7
Sontag’s first presentation in the role of Amina in La sonnambula on 21 April
caused an ecstatic reaction among the Mexican public. Her singing voice was
otherworldly: ‘supernatural’, ‘fantastic’, ‘celestial’, ‘divine’. Despite having
abandoned singing for many years after her marriage and having resumed only
recently, the critics thought she sang as well, and looked as beautiful and young, as
twenty years before. As it is well known, the countess of Rossi had returned to
singing to reinstate the fortune lost by her husband. The precision of her singing, the
unheard-of beauties she could bring out in her roles, her timbre, her embellishments,
all in the right place, were but few of the matters on which an amazed press
commented. Critics confessed their impotence in attempting to describe what they
were hearing and watching: ‘When one says: the sun is illuminating, there is nothing
to add. The same occurs when one says, “Sontag is singing”. That says it all.’ 8
El Siglo XIX, 17 Apr. 1854.
Ibid., 13 May 1854. Mexicans heard Sontag sing the following roles: Amina in La sonnambula,
Rosina (several times, the last on 23 May) in Il barbiere di Siviglia (6, 7 and 24 May), Marie in La
fille du regiment (11 May), Adina in L’Elisir d’amore (20 May) and Desdemona in Rossini’s Otello (3
Copies of a poem written by a Mexican woman and dedicated to the
‘Inimitable artist Enriqueta Sontag, countess of Rossi, when we heard her in the great
theatre Santa-Anna’,9 were dropped down from the theatre’s gallery. In an autoorientalized vein, the poem exalts the singer’s virtues as they glitter on Mexican soil.
From what remote region
Did the unsettled dawn bring you
Sweetest Enriqueta
To remote Mexican soil!
Curly-plumed bird
Most beautiful and melodious,
How gentle your sonorous voice
Sounds in Montezuma’s garden!
Here where there is no ice,
And the breeze is perfumed,
Your song and your smile
Harmonise with our land.
From the north at noon,
Absorbed with your trills
In ecstasy divine,
Enthused Europe applauded you.
But the shadow of war
Frightens the nightingale,
And it flies, and comes and sings,
And the earth rejoices of Columbus.
Sad turtledove in a distant nest
You cry your soft, your mournful complaints,
And the echo you then leave behind in your soul,
Laments the pain hidden therein.
But if your throat modulates joy
Laughter, love and placid contentment,
The heart forgets its torment,
And only feels that your voice enchants.
You bring together sorrow and joy,
I have heard celestial singers;
But none, Enriqueta, can equal your skill,
None entrances my soul like you.
June). Despite being well-known by the public, Sontag brought new light to these roles. The public
was also thrilled when she presented the Polka d’Alary from Act III of Maria di Rohan.
It was the National Theatre renamed in honour of the dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna.
With a thousand reasons the world is enraptured,
How many of your songs, Enriqueta, do you intone,
Laurels, feathers and crowns are offered you,
And the world hears you and adores you with a deep love.
Shine then, if shining is your destiny:
Charm with your voice, lovely German girl,
But allow that here a Mexican maiden
Strew some flowers in your path. (C.1, pp. 316-7)
R. B. de G.10
Sontag responded to this Mexican’s admiration by participating in a gala function at
the Santa Anna heatre where the President’s wife, Dolores Tosta, a passionate
amateur pianist, was present. It was a magnificent event: the building’s façade was
illuminated with coloured lights, the patios to the sides of the foyer became fantastic
gardens, lights and flowers were everywhere, and the entrance was lavishly carpeted.
The hall shone as though in broad daylight, the spellbound chronicler reported; the
columns on the boxes were swathed with garlands of fresh roses.11 The gala, which
started with the overture to Verdi’s Nabucodonosor, reached its culmination when
Henrietta Sontag sang a Mexican national anthem composed by Giovanni Bottesini
with lyrics by Mexican poet Francisco González Bocanegra.
Then, from the beginning of May, some members of the Masson’s company
began to fall ill—too ill to perform. Masson had to make last minute arrangements in
order to accommodate these unexpected changes and the authorities prohibited him
from saying publicly what everybody knew: cholera morbus had hit Mexico City
once again. After an excursion to the popular Tlalpan fair on the city’s outskirts,
Henriette Sontag was also taken ill. After a few days and desperate attempts to save
her life, she died at 3pm on 17 June 1854. The next day a sumptuous funeral
procession conducted her body to the San Fernando cemetery, where she had a
magnificent burial with state honours, the German Club sang a prayer to the virgin,
the orchestras of the two theatres played together, and the Mexican poet Pantaleón
Tovar declaimed a second poem written in her honour.12
El Siglo XIX, 10 May 1854. Translation from Spanish, Catherine Rendón.
Ibid., 19 May 1854.
Her remains were transferred to a permanent site in a convent, near Dresden, Germany, where they
were deposited on 2 May 1855. Clementina Díaz y de Ovando, ‘Funeral Romántico para una
cantante’, Cuadernos de historia del arte, (Argentina, Universidad Nacional del Cuyo, 1987): 233241.
Figure 33. Promotional program of Henrietta Sontag’s presentations in Mexico
Sontag’s death can be seen as a metaphor for the beginning of the decline of
the virtuoso era in Mexico and the gradual entrance to a modern period in its musical
history, including a state-organized music education system. In the coming decades,
there was an accelerated development of Mexican musicians at professional levels
within an established and permanent national musical setting. This new era was
heralded by the foundation of the National Conservatory in 1866 and the
consolidation of its symphony orchestra in 1882. Women were from the start
included in these new institutions.
When Henrietta Sontag was in the capital, she was told of a talented nineyear-old girl who had a prodigious voice. Interested or amused, she agreed to hear
her. After the girl sang, the story goes, Henrietta covered her face with kisses, gave
her a piece of music as a present, and declared: ‘If your father were to take you to
Italy, you would be one of the greatest singers of Europe.’13 The girl was Ángela
Narrated in Agustín F. Cuenca’s book, Ángela Peralta de Castera. Rasgos biográficos, (México,
1873) as quoted in Mónica Barrón, ‘Para escuchar al ruiseñor’
<> (Accessed 02 09
Peralta, ‘Angelica di voce e di nome’, as she was called in Italy, where she
triumphed as a soprano less than a decade after Sontag heard her. She sang Lucia di
Lammermoor in 1862 at La Scala, founded her own company back in Mexico and
returned to Italy to perform with it. She also composed and published her music and
was a recognized teacher. When she came back to Mexico, she was received as a
hero. 14 Her encounter with Sontag had been a symbolic passing of the baton for a
new generation of Mexican professional and independent women musicians, and her
image is a fitting way to end this thesis.
Figure 34. Ángela Peralta in the 1870s or 1880s
An internet search brings up several short biographies of Ángela Peralta of different levels of detail.
She has clearly become a character of international and especially national value, who is studied in
primary and secondary schools. Her presence is a constant in dictionaries, encyclopedias and there are
also some published monographic studies about her. For example: Bobette, Gugliotta, Women of
Mexico: The Consecrated and the Commoners, 1519–1900 (California: Floricanto Press, 1989), 164–
165; Armida Manjarrez, ‘Ángela Peralta’ in
<> (Accessed
21 09 2011). Peralta has an entry in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera and in other countless
Mexican dictionaries; her obituary was published in The New York Times, 9 September 1883 and her
name gives name to schools and auditoriums. She has become a Mexican symbol of an early
entrepreneurial artistic woman.
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---------‘The Musician as Entrepreneur and Opportunist, 1700-1914.’ In The
Musician as Entrepreneur, 1700-1914. Managers, Charlatans, and Idealists
ed. by William Weber, 3-24. Bloomington /Indianapolis: Indiana University
Press, 2004,
---------‘From the Self-Managing Musician to the Independent Concert Agent.’ In
The Musician as Entrepreneur, 1700-1914. Managers, Charlatans, and
Idealists ed. by William Weber, 105-129. Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 2004.
Weliver, Phyllis. ‘Music, Crowd Control and the Female Performer in Trilby.’ In The
Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction, ed. by Sophie Fuller and Nicky Losseff,
57-80. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.
--------Women Musicians in Victorian Fiction, 1860-1900. Representations of Music,
Science and Gender in the Leisured Home. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000.
Winter, Robert. ‘Pianoforte, §II, 2: Piano Playing: Romantic Period’ in Grove Music
Online, Accessed 12. 12. 2005, <>.
Woodfield, Ian. Music of the Raj. A Social and Economic History of Music in Late
Eighteenth-Century Anglo-Indian Society. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2000.
Wright de Kleinhans, Laureana. Mujeres notables mexicanas. Mexico: Tip.
Económica, 1910.
Biblioteca Nacional (Mexico City)
Fondo Reservado y Hemeroteca de la Biblioteca Nacional (Mexico City)
Archivo Histórico del Distrito Federal (AHDF) (Mexico City)
Diversiones Públicas
Festividades Fincas
Private Collection of Music Albums of Guillermo Contreras (Mexico City)
British Library (London)
Senate House (London)
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Musique, l.a. Henri Herz. (Paris)
Table I. Composers and Arrangers as Appear in Albums
Aguilar y Ortega,
Aguilar, J. M.
Benedict, J.
Bennet, William
Berner, Louis
Bohm, Carl
Coenen, Franz
Contla, Sabás
Coria, A.
Cramer, Henri
Darjou, Marie
De María y Campos,
Delgado, Eusebio
Díaz de Herrera,
Dreyschock, Alex.
Barilli, Antonio
Cramer, Joseph
Czerny, C.[arl]
Ascher, Joseph
Bürgmuller, Fréd.
Cabrero y
Martínez, Paulina
José C.
Morel, Y.
Cepeda y Cosío,
María de Jesús
Chopin, Frideric
Art, Franz
Bertini [Henri
Blanco, Vicente
Araujo, Teófilo
Baca, Luis
Drug, D.
Elbel, Victor
Elizalíturri de
Caballero, Ignacia
Elorriaga, Ramón
Ernst, H. W.
Faust, Carl.
Favarger, Réné
de Coca, José L.
Francoeur, A:
Fumagalli, Adolfo
Gelinek, Joseph
Godefroid, Felix
Golde, Adolph
Gounod, Charles
Guerrero, T.
Hahn, Luis [Ludwig]
Heitz, Santiago
Herzberg, Antoine
Hünten, F[rançois]
Inclán, Pedro
Infante, Alejo
Jourdan, Ph.
Juliano, A. P.
Jungman, Albert
Kafka, Johann
Ketterer, Eugène
Krüger, N.
Labitzki, J.
Lange, Gustav
Lares, Sta. Dña. L.
Larios, F[elipe]
Le Carpenter, A.
León, Tomás
Lerdo de Tejada, F.
Iradier, S.
Jülig, Franz
Guillén, Angela
Jaëll, Alfred
Friedrich, Ferd.
, Margarita
Herz, Henri
Duvernoy, J.B.
Gómez, J.
Gómez, José
Gottschalk, L. M.
Leÿbach, J.
Louis, N.
Lumbye, Hans
Marchetti, Filippo
Martin, Henri (Henry)
Martínez, Micaela
Mayer, Carl (Charles)
Mendelssohn, Felix
Metra, Olivier
Mey, Louis
Montero, Antonio
Morales, Melesio
Musard, Alfred
Musard, Philippe
Neldy, A. B.
Nuño, V:
P., R.
Paniagua, Cenobio
Pasdeloup, J.
Pérez de León, José
Pérez de León, Luis
Planas, Miguel
Popp, W.
Portu, L.
Prieto, Emetrio
Prudent E.[mile]
Ramírez de Arellano,
Ramírez Valdes, F.
Ravina, Henri
Reichert, M. A.
Richards, Brinley
Rosellen, Henri
Sánchez, Mariano
Sauvinet, F.
Schad, Joseph
Schubert, Camila
Schulhoff, Jules
Schwencke, Charles
Seager, Henri
Smith, Sidney
Smith, Stanley
Llorente, C.
Siliceo, Agustín
Liszt, Franz
Oliver, P.
Streabog, L.
Talexy, Adrien
Tedesco, Ignace
Tejada, Ignacio
Valadés, J.
Vargas Machuca, A.
Villanueva, J.
William Vincent
Wallerstein, A.
Wasserman, W
Weber, Carl Maria
Willmers, Rudolph
Zumpe, Edmund
Full Names Of Albums
Instructor Filarmónico I
Instructor Filarmónico II
Mexican women magazines
Album YB
Josefina Zúñiga
Matilde Zamora pi6
Matilde Zamora pi5
Matilde Zamora Pi4
Museo Filarmónico
Album JK
Album Pi2
Table II. Musical Genres
Danza habanera
Fantasía característica
Favorite theme
French Chanzonette
Illustration par piano
Improvisation for violin
Jarabe tapatío
Jota aragonesa
Lieder ohne Worte
Méditation sur le piano
Mélodie sans paroles
Morceau de genre
Morceau de salon
Motif favori
Mourceau élégant
Musical sketches
on a favorite theme
Opera-Estudio de salón
Opera-Transcription brillant
Opera-Variations concertantes
Opera-variations on a theme
Overture (not linked to
Paraphrase de concert
brillant sur themes…
Pensée fugitive
Pensée poetique
Piece for piano (unspecified genre)
Révérie Idylle
Romance sans paroles
Variations brillantes
Variaciones burlescas
Variations mignones
Variations et Rondino
Opera-Polonaise favorite
Opera-Polka mazurka
de concert
Opera-Nocturne de soirée
Instructor Filarmónica I
Instructor Filarmónica II
Josefina Zuñiga
Matilde Zamora pi6
Matilde Zamora Pi5
Matilde Zamora Pi4
Museo Filarmónico
Album JK
Luis Hahn
Álbum Pi2
Mexican women magazines 1840s1860s
Piano YB
Table III. Album Josefa Zúñiga
“Colección de piesas de música para piano / Josefa Zúñiga”
Aguilar, J. M.
La flor del
bosque. Valse
Francœur, A.
Las Tres
Gracias para
piano No3
La amabilidad.
Polka Mazurca.
Barilli, Antonio,
Maestro Director
y jefe de Orquesta
de la Ópera
Italiana en NuevaYork y en México
Alonso, Francisco
City of
M. Murguía
Editor. Litog.
en el Portal
del Águila de
Lit. de M
Murguía y Ca.
M. Murguía y
Ca. Editores.
H. Iriarte,
M. Murguía y
Ca. Editores.
El Repertorio
No40 To3o
El Repertorio
No17 To3o
El Repertorio
No34 To4o
Polka para
Repertorio de
Música de
Enrique Ángel
y Cia.
Calle del
Refugio No8
La hermosa
Anita. Polka
La Flor de
Prop. Del
editor. Lit. de
Lito. De m.
Murguía y Ca.
Sta. Dña.
Sta. Dña.
A las amables
The rest of Murguía’s publication also in Lit. Portal del Águila de Oro.
In addition to Portal del Águila…
La Caprichosa.
2 Polkas
elegantes para
piano: La
Sontag y La
coqueta. No 29
El Recuerdo.
Polka mazurca
para piano
Las dos
discípulas. Vals
a cuatro manos.
Larios, F[elipe]
León, J. M. P. de
La constancia.
Vals para forte
F.[rancios] (17931878)
La Cerrito. Gran
vals por
arreglado por….
Vals arreglado a
cuatro manos
por J. Valades
City of
Propiedad de
los Editores
M. Murguía y
Ca. Editores
El Repertorio
No40 2ª Ea
Dedicada a la
señora Doña J.
2 in
M. Murguía y
Ca. Editores
El Repertorio
No4 To3o
Prop. Del
Editor. Lit. de
Navarro. Se
expende en el
Repertorio de
Música. Calle
de Tacuba
Prop. Del
Editor. Lit. de
Navarro. Se
expende en el
Repertorio de
Música. Calle
de Tacuba
Impreso y
publicado por
M. Murguía,
editor de
música. Litog.
Portal del
Águila de Oro
Part of the
previous piece.
Also versions
for one pianist
and for guitar
Duvernoy, J.[ean]
Louis (18091862[?])
( ?) 1800-1892)
Fantasía a
cuatro manos y
sobre temas de
la Ópera
Puritanos de
La Polonaise.
Motif favori de
L. Sphor,
arrangé pour le
Piano a quatre
mains par…
No1. Marche de
La Dame du
Lac. Rossini
City of
Musical Nums.
30, 31 and 32
“Fin del
primer tomo”
Paris, Bernard
Latte, ed.
B. L. 2099
Musicale, 3e
Mois No87
Duo No2. Sur
un chœur de la
Norma de
Bellini, op. 44
Paris, Henri
1787 H
Etincelle No 3.
Rondo sur le
No3 Overture
Aulagnier ed.
AA 429
( ?) 1800-1892)
« Un amateur »
Paris, chez
Carli, ed.
Trois airs variés
pour le piano sur
des thêmes de
Rossini, Bellini,
etc. composés
par…Arrangés a
Quatre Mains
Trois Duos non
difficiles, pour
le piano a quatre
mains, arrangés
d’apres ses duos
10 Etincelles
pour piano a
quatre mains
Choix de dix
Ouvertures de la
Composition de
Arrangées a
quatre mains
Pour le piano
forte par…
Herz, Henri
Bonn, N.
Seal. Enrique
brillantes avec
introduction et
finale Alla
militaire pour le
piano a quatre
mains sur la
favorite de la
Violette de
Caraffa, op. 48
concertantes a
quatre mains
pour le piano
sur la Marche
favorite du
Philtre Der
Liebestrank de
D. F. E. Huber,
op. 70
Las perlas.
Wals para piano
Herz, Henri
Labitzki, J.[oseph]
Hünten, F.
rancios] (17931878)
Pérez de León,
Luis (1809-1897)
City of
Mayence et
Anvers ches
les fils de B.
M. Murguía,
El Repertorio
La espina
blanca. Valse
[M. Murguía,
El Repertorio
El clarín de la
selva. Wals
M. Murguía y
El Repertorio
No10 To4
Nagel y Cia.
Repertorio de
Repertorio de
Música, Calle
de la Palma
No13, México
Published by
1845 (HFF)
Compuesto y
dedicado el día
de su
cumpleaños al
Exmo. Sr.
General del
Distrito y
City of
General de
Artillería: Don
Martín Carrera
Table IV. Album Instructor Filarmónico, vol. I
‘Ynstructor Filarmónico. Periódico Semanario Musical
Dirigido por José Antonio Gómez y Socios
Colección de piezas escogidas por diversos autores
Para piano, canto, flauta y vihuela’
(México, 1843) Tomo I
(propiedad de los editores, calle cerrada de santa teresa no 2)
Gómez, José
Gómez, José
Wals de la Aurora
3/8, EbM
Canción. El Feliz
Duo No 14 en la
Ópera La Donna
Part of 1
and 2
Part of 3
and 4
voice and
Piano and
La jota aragonesa
Part of 4
García, M[anuel]
Part of 4-7
Part of 10|
3/8 FM
Gómez, José
Bellini, V.[incenzo]
Aria (no3 del 2º acto)
en la ópera El
Amante Astuto
Overtura en la ópera
La Campana
Wals de la Lucia
Piano, voices
and flute
Piano and
6/8, Fm,
6 stanzas
4/4. FM
Note on p. 8: “Si no
hay vihuela se tocarán
en el piano los trozos
que son anotados con
este signo $”
¾ FM,
3 Stanzas
4/4 CM.
Singing character:
2/4 EM
I Puritani. Aria no. 6
Baca, Luis
El Cometa de 1843.
Wals para piano
Part of 13
Piano and
Gómez, José
Antonio, arr.
Piano and
Gómez, Alejandro
Part of 15
3/8 AM
Strauss, Johannes
“Vivi tu. Aria no 14
en la Ópera Anna
Bolena por Donizetti
El Delirio. Wals para
Wals de la rosa
4/4 EbM Singing
character: Elvira
3/8 BbM “Dedicado al
Sr. Su Maestro D. J.
Antonio Gomes”
4/4 GM
¾ BbM
Gómez, José
Piano and
4/4 GM
Patiño, Pomposo
Olla podrida sobre
temas de la ópera La
Clara de Rosemberg
de Ricci
Wals de la pasión
Part orf 15
and 16
Part of 2021
Duetto “Quando di
sange tinto” Nell’
Opera Belisario
Part of 2123
Piano and
Gómez, José
A Elisa. Canción a
dúo puesta en música
para el Instructor
Piano and
3/8 EbM “Dedicado a
su Maestro el Sr. D.
Felipe Larios”
¾ AbM
and Alamiro
6/8 EbM
2 female voices, 5
Gómez, José
Gómez, José
Gómez, José
Variaciones brillantes
sobre un tema
original por Pixis
arregladas para fortepiano y vihuela
La insinuación. Wals
para forte-piano
Las noches de
ventura. Cuadrillas a
cuatro manos para
Part of 2429
Piano and
4/4 EM
Part of 2930
Part of 3032
Piano four
¾ FM“Compuesto y
dedicado a las señoritas
6/8 FM
Bound at the end of the same album but not part of the Ynstructor Filarmónico
Gómez, José
Gómez, José
Wals del saltapared y
La cachucha para
Las armoniosas
cuadrillas y galopa para
forte- piano sobre temas
de diversos autores
arregladas por Jose
Antonio Gómez para el
Carnaval de 1843
La Primavera. Walst
para forte-piano
Gómez, José
El Estío. Walst para
Gómez, José
El Otoño. Walst para
Gómez, José
El Invierno. Walst para
The author’s
edition; dist. By
Latorre: Librería
Mexicana. Litog.
By Amado Sta.
Cruz and
México, 1843.
Ed. by J. A.
Dist. by
Latorre: Librería
México, 1843.
Ed. by J. A.
Dist. by
Latorre: Librería
México, 1843.
Ed. by J. A.
Dist. by
Latorre: Librería
México, 1843.
Ed. by J. A.
3 rs
2/4 E Based on themes
by Weber (no 1),
Donizetti (no 2),
Donizetti and Bellini
(no 3), Donizetti (no 4),
Bellini and Donizetti
(no 5), Gómez (galopa,
no 6).
1.5 rs
¾ BbM
1.5 rs
¾ EbM
1.5 rs.
¾ Bm
1.5 rs.
¾ AbM
3/8 C
Gómez, José
Oliver, P.
Wals El Encanto
El Olimpo. Walst para
3 (2
Dist. by
Latorre: Librería
Lit. de Sta. Cruz
y Cabrera
3/8 EbM
3/8 BbM
Table V. Album Instructor Filármonico, vol. II
‘Ynstructor Filarmónico. Periódico Semanario Musical
Dirigido por José Antonio Gómez y Socios
Colección de piezas escogidas por diversos autores
Para piano, canto, flauta y vihuela’
(México, 1843) Tomo II
(propiedad de los editores, calle cerrada de santa teresa no 2)
Fantasia para forte
piano sobre temas de
Lucrecia Borgia
La rosa americana.
Walst para forte
Duetto nella opera
Beatrice di Tenda
La Querella
Cabrero y
Bertini ,
Gómez, J.
Bertini ,
4/4 FM
¾ DM
Part of 6
and part of
Piano and
Piano and
Voice characters:
Filippo and Bea
4/4 EbM
La Serenata.
Capricho sobre un
tema favorito de Dn
Pasqual [opera by
Donizetti] para piano
Nuevas cuadrillas de
Lucresia para forte
La Palmira. Overtura
para forte-piano
6/8 AbM
20-part of
5 quadrilles
Part of 21part of 25
El Lirio. Vals. Para
El Ángel.
Variaciones brillantes
Part of 25part of 26
Part of 2630
¾ DM
4/4 EM
Sinfonía de la Ópera
La Parisina [by
Dúo en la Ópera de
Don Pasqual por
El pozo del amor.
Cuadrillas por
4/4 EM
33-part of
Piano and
Part of 37
and part of
4/4 FM
Voice characters:
Norina and Malatesta
2/4 BbM
5 quadrilles
Rondó para piano
Part of 38part of 40
4/4 BbM
Duetto no 10 de
Maria Padilla por
Part of 40part of 43
Piano and
4/4 CM
Voice characters:
Cuadrillas por
La boca risueña.
Part of 43Part of 44
Part of 44
Piano and
Maria and Don Pedro
2/4 AM
5 quadrilles (no 1
Pantalon, no 2 Été, no
3 Poule, no 4 Trénis,
no 5 Finale)
“Que J. Anto. Gómez
compone y dedica a los
SS. SS. Del Instructor
Appendix A
Henri Herz’s Concert Programs in Mexico City as Published by Mexican
1-First concert, 6 August 1849, La Lonja (private hall), Mexico City
Primera parte
1. Grande obertura por la orquesta
2. Canto, por una señorita aficionada.
3. Gran Concerto Serioso, en Do menor (el secondo) en tres partes, con
acompañamiento de toda la orquesta, compuesto y ejecutado por Enrique Herz.
1ª parte, Allegro maestoso.
2ª parte, Andante sentimentale,
3ª parte, Rondo Giocoso
(Este Concerto dedicado a Luis Felipe, fue compuesto para el Conservatorio de
París, y la Sociedad Filarmónica de Londres.)
(Intermedio de 20 minutos)
Segunda parte
4. Canto
5. Grande fantasía romántica para piano solo, sobre temas de la Lucia de
Lamermoor, compuesta y ejecutada por Enrique Herz.
6. Canto
7. Variaciones brillantes y de bravura, con acompañamiento de
orquesta, sobre un tema de la ópera Le Pré aux Clercs, [by Hérold] compuestas y
ejecutadas por Enrique Herz.
Tercera parte
Por la orquesta sola
[Se vuelve a comenzar la numeración]
1. Las Elegantes, cuadrillas brillantes compuestas para los bailes del teatro de La
Grande Ópera de París por Enrique Herz.
2. La Polka del Siglo, compuesta por Enrique Herz
3. Los Segadores, valse compuesto para las bailarinas de Viena, por Enrique Herz.
2-Second Concert, 9 August 1849, La Lonja (private hall), Mexico City
(Program published 7 August)
“Conciertos de la Lonja
La Segunda Tertulia Musical
Henri Herz.
1º El 4º Concierto y el Ron[dó] de Russo2 con Gran Orquesta.
These are the programmes published previously to the concerts in the papers El Siglo XIX and/or El
Monitor Republicano. We know how common was at that time the practice of altering the
programmes due to diverse causes ranging from the public’s requests to the availability of scores or
musicians to other reasons. In some cases we have given testimony of these changes.We believe that
despite the changes this printed announcements are valuable documents that reflect Herz’s plans and
probably what he thought were the tastes of his Mexican audience. The reader will see that in certain
occasions Herz himself first published a program and shortly before the concert another completely
2º La fantasía brillante sobre temas de la Lucrecia Borgia
3º Las grandes variaciones de concierto sobre la marcha del Otello, con orquesta. Los
pormenores se hallarán en el programa.
(Programme published 9 August, the day of the concert)
Parte Primera.
1. Obertura de Gustavo por la orquesta. [opera Zampa]
2. Terzetto de la ópera Attila de Verdi.
3. Grandes variaciones sobre la marcha de Otello (con orquesta) […] H. Herz
Parte Segunda.
4. Dueto de Lucrecia Borgia de contralto y tenor.
5. Brillante fantasía sobre temas de I Puritani […] H. Herz.
6. 6. Duetto de la ópera Attila de soprano y tenor.
7. Fantasía romántica sobre temas de la Lucrecia Borgia […] H. Herz.
Parte Tercera.
8. Les Entrainantes, quadrilles, H. Herz.
9. La Polka del siglo , H. Herz.
10. Wals.
3-First Concert in the National Theatre, Mexico City, 18 August 1849
1. Obertura del Conde de Essex por…………………..La orquesta.
2. ARIA DE BAJO de la ópera Lucrecia Borgia,
de Donizetti, cantada por……………………………….El Sr. Solares
1º Allegro Maestoso.
2º Adagio Sentimental.
3º Rondo Giocoso.
Compuesto y ejecutado con acompañamiento
de toda la orquesta por ……………………………………Henri Herz.
Este concierto (dedicado a Luis Felipe) [etc. etc. véase fecha anterior para completar párrafo]
4. Cavatina de la Cantante
cantada por ………………………………………………..La Sra. Cossío.
5. Obertura Del DOMINO NOIR por ………………….La orquesta.
cantada por………………………………………………….La Sra. Cossío.
7. VARIACIONES brillantes y de bravura
sobre un tema del PRÉ AUX CLERCS,
compuestas y ejecutadas (con la orquesta) por………Henri Herz.
8. ARIA de tiple de la ópera TORCUATO TASSO
I have not found a composer Russo at the time which leads me to believe this piece might be the
Rondo Russo from his Concert for flute (1819) by Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870), adapted to piano
by Herz. That would probably make the 4th Concerto Herz’s own. He composed eight piano concerti.
Liszt also transcribed pieces by Mercadante in his concerts. In Madrid he played arrangements on
Zaira, Il Giuramento.and Il Bravo. See Robert Stevenson, “Liszt at Madrid and Lisbon: 1844-45”, The
Musical Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 4 (Oct., 1979): 439-512. I have found Liszt and Herz’s programs
were very similar in the former’s Madrid and Lisbon concerts and the latter’s Mexican concerts. This
might suggest a sense of the orientalised Spanish/Mexican other that could prove telling in further
analysis. Another comparative thread would be the reification both enjoyed in their respective
“exotic” tours.
cantada por …………………………………………………La Sra. Cossío.
9.Gran fantasía romántica sobre temas de la LUCIA
DE LAMMERMOOR para piano solo, compuesta y
ejecutada por…………………………………………………Henri Herz.
4-Second Concert in the National Theatre, Mexico City, 22 August 1849
(announcement of 20 August)
Se verificará en la noche del miércoles 22 de agosto.
Completo cambio del programa.
Para que sus conciertos sean los más variados, presentará en ellos el Sr. Herz escenas en traje
teatral y actos enteros de las OPERAS ITALIANAS más conocidas.
El Sr. Herz tocará durante el curso de la función:
Grandes y brillantes variaciones sobre la marcha del
Con acompañamiento de toda la orquesta.
Una gran fantasía sobre el dueto Suoni la tromba, de los
La gran fantasía romántica sobre temas de la
Los pianos son de la fábrica nacional de París, cuyo director es el Sr. Herz.
La función empezará con todo el acto segundo de la afamada ópera del inmortal
Bellini, titulada :
Elvira………………………………………….Srita. Cosío.
Georgia……………………………………….Sr. Solares.
Ricardo………………………………………..Sr. Zanini
Con coros completos.
En la segunda parte se cantarán escenas en traje del
Rosina…………………………………………Srita. Cosío.
Fígaro………………………………………….Sr. Zanini.
Director de la orquesta…………………………….
El Sr. Chávez.
Maestro………………………………………………. El Sr. Michelle.
(Announcement of 21 August)
Second concert by H. Herz including changes in comparison with the announcement of the
previous day.
At the beginning:
“I. Obertura de la ópera Estradilla, por la orquesta.”
After I Puritani (It was at the beginning in the previous announcement)
“III. Grandes y brillantes variaciones sobre la marcha del Otello, con acompañamiento de
toda la orquesta, compuestas y ejecutadas por Henri Herz.
Parte Segunda.
Obertura de la ópera Gustavo, o
Le Bal Masqué, ejecutada por la orquesta.”
Aquí sigue la obertura de V. ‘Suoni la Tromba’ de los Puritanos, antes en la primera parte.
“VI. Cavatina. Una Voce un Poco Fa.
por la señorita Cosío.
VII. Dueto. Dunque Io. Cantado por la Srita. Cosío y el Sr. Zanini.”
El VIII es la Lucrecia Borgia previamente anunciada, y la
“IX. La Polka del Siglo.”
5-Third Concert in the National Theatre, Mexico City, 25 August 1849, together with
Franz Coenen
EL SEÑOR HERZ tocará por la primera vez.
Variaciones brillantes sobre un tema de NORMA
con acompañamiento de orquesta.
Una fantasía nueva sobre el precioso tema irlandés
concluyendo con el rondó de la ópera francesa
Tocará I. Una fantasía militar sobre un tema de los PURITANOS.
II. LA MELANCOLÍA, de Prume, Variaciones de bravura sobre un tema
sentimental, con un final brillantísimo en forma de TRÉMOLO.
EL CARNAVAL DE VENECIA, tema napolitano con las variaciones
burlescas y originales del inmortal PAGANINI.
Las variaciones burlescas que toca el Sr. Coenen son las mismas con que su ilustre
compositor ha entusiasmado a la Europa entera.
Estas variaciones no deben ser confundidas con las de Ernst sobre el mismo tema,
que no son sino una imitación de las de Paganini.”
6-Fourth Concert in the National Theatre, Mexico City, 29 August 1849
[Including compositions with Mexican colour], together with violinist Franz Coenen
(announcement of 27 August)
“Teatro Nacional.
El cuarto y gran concierto de Henri Herz,
Se verificará en la noche del miércoles 29 de agosto.
El Sr. Herz se presentará por segunda vez al ilustrado público de México,
el célebre violinista Franz Coenen,
Discípulo del grande Beriot, miembro de la capilla de S. M el rey de Holanda, socio
honorario de la real sociedad de música de Ámsterdam y director de la real unión filarmónica
de Rótterdam, etc., que ha producido tan gran sensación en Londres y las demás capitales de
Inglaterra y de los Estados Unidos.
El Sr. Herz tocará en la primera parte por petición del público:
El Adagio Sentimental y el Rondo Giocoso de su segundo concierto serio,
con acompañamiento de toda la orquesta.
En la segunda parte presentará por primera vez el Sr. Herz, un
Cuadro Musical en tres partes: 1ª. Introducción y Notturno titulado: ‘Los
Suspiros.’ 2ª. ‘La Rancherita,’ recuerdo de su viaje. 3ª. ‘Una hoja de su
Álbum,’ capricho brillante sobre un aire nacional.
Una nueva fantasía (manuscrita) sobre temas del ‘Ernani’.
Franz Coenen tocará tres de sus composiciones nuevas.
Una gran fantasía sobre temas de la ‘Lucia de Lammermoor,’ con
acompañamiento de orquesta.
Un soño [sic], fantasía elegiaca con orquesta.
‘La Kermes (carnaval de Holanda)’ con variaciones burlescas, imitación
del ‘Carnaval de Paganini.’
La escogida orquesta estará dirigida por el Sr. D. J. M. Chávez.”
(announcement of 29 August)3
(Changes and additions to the bill printed on 27 August)
“La señorita Mosqueira cantará dos hermosos trozos.”
Then on the First part:
Obertura del Domino Negro por la orquesta
Aria de la ópera Romeo y Julieta de Vaccai, cantada por el Sr. Zanini y luego
sigue el I. del programa anterior.
Después sigue:
Aria de la Sonámbula cantada por la Srita Mosqueira.
Gran fantasía sobre temas de la Lucia de Lammermoor, [I. de la segunda parte en el
programa anterior.
Segunda Parte
Obertura del dios y la bayadera. Por la orquesta.
A petición del público, por la segunda y última vez, la gran fantasía militar sobre
varios temas de Los Puritanos,
por Franz Coenen, con la orquesta.
VIII. Aria de Los Puritanos,
cantada por la Srita. Mosqueira.
Cuadro Musical [ver programa anterior. Todo lo demás sigue igual. Termina en
el X. con “La Kermes…”]
7-Benefit farewell concert to violinist Franz Coenen with Henri Herz’s participation,
National Theatre, 1 September 1849
El Sr. Coenen, deseando probar su profundo reconocimiento hacia el ilustrado
público que con tanta bondad lo ha recibido, ha arreglado una función compuesta de piezas
que espera agradarán a sus favorecedores.
El sublime pianista Henri Herz, caballero de la Legión de Honor, coadyuvará con sus
profundos conocimientos al mejor éxito de la función ejecutando las piezas que se expresan
en seguida:
La Violeta, composición suya que tan ardientemente desea el público.
Brillante improvisación, sobre tres temas escogidos en la misma noche por el
público, quien por medio de aplausos manifestará cuales escoge de los que consten en una
lista en que la persona que estará en el foro, inscribirá todos los que los concurrentes le
entreguen; cuya lista se leerá en público.
La Srita. Cosío cantará lo siguiente:
This second advertisement with the announcements of the changes for Herz’s fourth concert in the
National Theatre, is basically the inclusion in the bill of the young and popular Mexican singer
señorita Mosqueira. Mexicans loved it—they still do—when a foreign renowned artist included local
artists n his/her concerts. This was even stronger at a time of national construction and war against
foreign powers.
Aria con coros, de la ópera Atila, del maestro Verdi.
Aria de la ópera Beatrice di Tenda, con coros completos.
El Sr. Franz Coenen, a petición de varias personas, repetirá la Melancolía, de Prume,
variaciones con un final brillantísimo en forma de trémolo.
Tocará además:
El ave en el árbol, rondo de concierto, con acompañamiento de orquesta, compuesto
por él y dedicado a los generosos mexicanos.
El carnaval de Venecia, tema napolitano con las variaciones burlescas de Paganini.
Los sres. Herz y Coenen, ejecutarán el gran duetto concertante, composición del
primero, para piano y violín, sobre la romanza de la ópera Fra Diávolo (por solo esta vez).”
Additions/substitutions to the program according to a chronicle published on 4
Srita. Cosío and basso Valltelina sang a duet of L’Elixir d’Amore.
The orchestra played an overture by Franz Coenen
Herz received little pieces of paper with the public’s suggestions for tunes, selected a
few—especially Mexican sonecitos—and improvised on them. He included his Marcha
Mexicana in the improvisation.
There was duet of Il Barbieri di Seviglia (No reference to the arias that were
published in the paper before the concert. The rest of the pieces by Coenen and the duetto,
were indeed performed).
8-“Monster Concert”, sixteen pianists including Henri Herz, National Theatre, 4
September 1849 (program published 3 September).
Concierto Monstruo
de Henri Herz
En que se tocará por esta sola vez la magnífica Obertura de Guillermo Tell
arregalada para
Ocho pianos
y diez y seis pianistas.
Esta sorprendente pieza que ha sido recibida con el más grande aplauso en los
conciertos monstruos que hada dado en París y Londres, será ejecutada por diez y
seis de los mejores profesores de la capital y Henri Herz.
Los pormenores de este concierto monstruo se darán con los programas.
9-“Last Monster Concert”, National Theatre, 7 September 1849
Se presentarán en él los dos eminentes violinistas
Franz Coenen
D. Eusebio Delgado,
El cual en obsequio al Sr. Herz, bondadosamente ha consentido en prestarse a acompañarlo.
La Srita. Mosqueira cantará algunos trozos de óperas italianas.
Los distinguidos profesores de piano de esta capital, de nuevo y graciosamente han
prometido acompañar al Sr. Herz en este su último concierto.
Henri Herz tocará las variaciones de bravura sobre el “Pre Aux Cleres,” y la fantasía
brillante sobre temas de la “Lucrecia Borgia,” en que intercalará un precioso Aire Nacional.
Franz Coenen, tocará por primera vez la afamada fantasía del célebre Artót, sobre
temas del ‘Pirata’ y de la ‘Sonámbula.’
El Sr. Herz tiene muchísimo gusto en anunciar al ilustrado público que ha
conseguido que se tocaran en ests su último concierto, las burlescas variaciones del afamado
Carnaval de Venecia.
de Pagnini,
arreglado como un duetto chistoso por los Sres.
Delgado y Coenen.
Este Carnaval está arreglado del mismo modo que el que ha proporcionado tanta
celebridad a las Hermana Milanollo.
El concierto terminará con la contradanza criolla original, composición del Sr. Henri
Herz, titulada
La Tropica [sic],
Con variaciones brillantes y de bravura, arregladas para
Ocho pianos y diez y seis pianistas,
y orquesta completa.
Pianists: J. M Aguilar, A. Balderas, P. Fluteau., Ant. Gómez, Alej. Gómez, J. M. León, F.
Larios, J. M. Marsan, P. Mele, A Michel, J. M. Oviedo, J. M. Retes, C. G. Ureña, J. Valadez,
J. Vázquez., Franz Coenen [¿?] and Henri Herz.
[Contado a Coenen allí incluído son 17].
10-Benefit concert for Henri Herz, National Theatre, 12 September 1849
“Teatro Nacional.
Los artistas profesores de piano, tienen el honor de participar a los numerosos favorecedores
del Sr.
Henri Herz,
que en obsequio de tan insigne artista, que ha contribuido tanto a la elevación de la música
de piano, han arreglado una función extraordinaria en beneficio de este gran artista, que se
verificará el miércoles 12 de septiembre, víspera de su salida de esta capital para Puebla.
El programa de la función será digno de tan interesante fiesta artística, y se
compondrá de las siguientes piezas:
El Trémolo, compuesto por Carlos de Beriot, y ejecutado por primera vez por su
Franz Coenen.
La Hija del Regimiento, introducción, variaciones brillantes y rondó final, con
acompañamiento de toda la orquesta, compuestas y ejecutadas por primera vez por Henri
Herz: esta composición es la primera de importancia que ha hecho el Sr. Herz en esta capital,
dedicada a sus favorecedores.
Dos hermosas arias, cantadas por la Srita. Mosqueira.
Grande obertura.
El Sr. Herz hará una improvisación en tres partes. Primera, sobre temas franceses.
Segunda, sobre temas italianos. Tercera, sobre aires nacionales.
Se suplica al público proporciones un crecido número de temas, que se entregarán
del mismo modo que en la anterior improvisación.
A petición general del público, Franz Coenen tocará su nueva composición intitulada: La ave
en el árbol.
Sonecitos del país, tocados en la jaranita y dos guitarras, por los artistas mexicanos
D. Luis Arriaga, D. Juan San Martín y D. José Arsinas.
Gran duetto de piano y violín, sobre la marcha de Mosé, composición del Sr. Herz y
ejecutado por él y Franz Coenen.
Esta magnífica función se concluirá con
Una Marcha Militar,
ejecutada por primera vez, compuesta y dedicada a los mexicanos por Henri Herz.
Esta hermosa pieza, cuya dedicación espera su autor será bondadosamente acogida
como una débil muestra de su profundo reconocimiento por la generosidad con que han sido
apreciados sus esfuerzos de agradar: será ejecutada en doce pianofortes, por veinte
profesores, doble orquesta, banda militar, coro de hombres, bajo la dirección de Henri Herz,
que tocará durante la ejecución, una brillante variación sobre su Trío.”
Appendix B
Original Spanish Quotes
Chapter 1
1.1, pp. 27-8.
Buenas para madres de familias, así para una polka como para asistir a un enfermo; tiernas sin
Notas: Las hay en abundancia; la dificultad es encontrarlas.
Enmarañadas, pero afectuosas; sensibles, pero dentro de casa con las medias bajadas y el túnico
a la cintura, con el dedo amarillo del cigarro.
Notas: Abundan; pero solo las solicitan los subtenientes con licencia ilimitada, músicos
de guitarra, bailarines, compositores de versos para dar días, y viudos con el recargo
de inquieta prole.
Filarmónicas. Las últimas representaciones de ópera han valorado este artículo, que tenía muy
poco consumo… Murguía vende lo que no es decible las obras de Rossini, de Bellini,
Verdi Marzan, Valadez, etc. La mayoría es sensible, entendida: los tápalos de lana les
agradan, y los cajeritos de la Monterilla son su delicia. No habla una de cosas de cocina
ni de aptitud doméstica, porque es forzoso descuidar todo lo que no tiene que ver con la
Abunda, y hay pedido
Tonistas. Las soirées, algunas posadas de alto rango, las estrangeradas y la óperas, han
restituido este artículo al mercado... El poco costo de los marabús y de la pasamanería, y
la abundancia de modistas les ha comunicado un vuelo efímero. Los besos y otras
monerías hacen solo se hallen entre las gentes decentes improvisadas…
Escasea: sin salida: poco pedido.
1.2, p. 31
Educación de las niñas.
Esta se arreglará a su sexo, y nada se omitirá para que sea aún más completa que la que se da
en los mejores establecimientos de Europa, pues comprenderá un gran número de oficios
mecánicos tan agradables como lucrativos.
1.3, p. 33
En la amiga aprendió mil lindezas, ya sobre escándalos que se resiste la pluma a escribir, ya en
voz baja decía palabras que tampoco aprohija diccionario alguno, ya a mezclar al rezo gracejos
irreligioso parodiando al popular Ripalda […] Salida Mariquita de la amiga, mal leyendo, mal
escribiendo, y con su corazón y su inteligencia viciados al a par, por los criados y por los
maestros, se lanzó a la novelesca vida de la juventudEn la amiga aprendió mil lindezas, ya sobre
escándalos que se resiste la pluma a escribir, ya en voz baja decía palabras que tampoco
aprohija diccionario alguno, ya a mezclar al rezo gracejos irreligioso parodiando al popular
Ripalda […] Salida Mariquita de la amiga, mal leyendo, mal escribiendo, y con su corazón y su
inteligencia viciados al a par, por los criados y por los maestros, se lanzó a la novelesca vida de
la juventud,
1.4, p. 34
Lo que llegamos a formar, lo que logramos, lo que llena de admiración a esa mayoría
extraordinaria de individuos que no piensa, son en realidad esos lindos muebles de salas (jolies
meubles de salon) que tocan el arpa o el piano, cantan, bailan, pintan, hablan y entienden de
todo, menos de los negocios de su casa, de hacer felices a sus maridos, de criar bien a sus hijos,
inspirándoles los sanos principios de la moral religiosa, que debieran.
1.5, p. 35
Las niñas serán atendidas con el mayor esmero, y todos los esfuerzos de los directores se
dirigirán a desarrollar sus facultades físicas, intelectuales y morales, infundiéndoles los
conocimientos que ilustran y adornan su sexo, dan realce a su genial amabilidad, y contribuyen
tan poderosamente a la felicidad y prosperidad de las familias
1.6, p. 35-6
Piano y canto.
Primer premio consignado a la niña Luisa Gen [¿hija de la directora?]: grandes
variaciones y el Elixir de amor de Herz.
Segundo premio, consignado a la niña Teresa Pradel: Invitación de Weber por Hunten,
oeuvre célebre par Hünten.
1.7, p. 39
Antes el grande arte en la educación de las mujeres, era contenerlas en la vida privada en una
situación preventiva que les prohibía el uso de moverse y de pensar, y se reducía todo a infinitas
precauciones y a una vigilancia excesiva. Antes de cualquiera otra cosa, se cuidaba de mostrar a
los abuelos el nombre puro y sin tacha de la familia. La mujer no tenía otra función que ejercer
que la de esposa y madre, y sin inteligencia, jamás debía salir del hogar doméstico, Hoy por la
necesidad o por la suerte, debe disponerse a rivalizar con la instrucción de los hombres.
1.8, p. 42
Con la caída del antiguo régimen… parecería que la mujer ocuparía en la sociedad el lugar que
las teorías ilustradas le habían estado preparando. Pero el discurso no fue acompañado de
medidas liberalizadoras, sino todo lo contrario, ya que la mujer quedó encerrada en el nuevo
espacio doméstico privatizado. Para persuadir a todos aquellos que pudieran tener reticencias
sobre este proceso, se elaboró un discurso basado en la debilidad, dulzura, caridad, piedad y
demás cualidades naturales e innatas de la mujer.
1.9, p. 43
[U]na criatura llena de fantasía y de verdad, capaz de inflamarse a la llama de todo lo que es
noble, sensible a las bellezas de la creación, a los encantos de la armonía, tan fecunda en textos
para las almas tiernas y de las ilusiones de ese arte divino que se apellida poesía; un ser, en fin,
que desdeñe la adulación y el aplauso tumultuoso, que se contente con gustar las dulzuras de la
vida doméstica[.]
1.10, p. 47
Hay mujeres que les causa hastío solo el ver un libro,—esto es malo.—Hay otras que devoran
cuanta novela y papelucho cae a sus manos,—esto es peor.—Dice un proloquio que en el medio
consiste la virtud, y en este punto debe llevarse a puro y debido efecto.
1.11, p. 48
Por regla general, voy a daros un consejo, hermosas mías. Siempre que oigáis decir de una obra
que es romántica, no la leáis; y esto va contra mis ideas literarias y contra mi opinión respecto a
estos escritos; pero generalmente lo que se llama romántico no deben leerlo ni las doncellas ni
las casadas, porque siempre hay en tales composiciones maridos traidores, padres tiranos,
amigos pérfidos, incestos horrorosos, parricidios, adulterios, asesinatos y crímenes, luchando en
un fango de sangre y de lodo.
1.12, p. 50
¡De cuánto atractivo se reviste una joven cuando su blanca mano recorre el sonoro piano e
inunda el oído de tiernas melodías; parece entonces que el aristocrático salón se puebla de
genios invisibles que vienen a aclamarla con sus voces divinas, por reina de la hermosura!
1.13, p. 52-3
Mas manso pero no menos temido el filarmónico, ya en una conversación, ya recitada, ya
obligada a tenor o a soprano, después de regalar a Mariquita caramelos y malvavisco, gorjeaban
a dúo El Suspiro, La Cheneréntola, El Pirata y otras cosas poniéndose a su frente, con su
guitarra, tocando impunemente sus rodillas y aprovechando con la voz y con el tacto los
intervalos en que se templaba o discutía en la tertulia lo que se debía cantar
1.14, p. 55
Don Timoteo: Según eso
¿usted quiere que sofoque
De mis hijas los talentos?
¿Qué laven, cosan o planchen,
Estén siempre en el brasero,
Disponiendo la comida,
Y, en fin, que tengan empleo
De criadas?
Don Antonio: No señor;
Pero que sepan al menos
Aquellas obligaciones
Que son propias de su sexo.
La música, la pintura,
El baile, todo es muy bueno,
Y sirve a una señorita
De atractivo y de recreo;
Pero, amigo, todo es malo
Cuando se lleva al exceso.
1.15, p. 55
Impías (doncellas de los 25 a los 40). Este género era desconocido antes en este mercado: el
trato con extrangeros, que fueron cerrajeros en su tierra y aquí son personages, los dramas
románticos y algunas novelas que han leído sin el debido criterio, como el Judío Errante[.]
1.16, pp. 56-7
Don Carlos: ¿Eres Venus, o eres Flora,
O más bien ángel del cielo?
María: Soy sólo una mexicana.
Don Carlos: ¡Imposible! ¡No es verdad!
Eres francesa, italiana,
O siquiera de La Habana;
Pero no de esta ciudad.
María: Pues…
Don Carlos: No me hables castellano,
Destruyendo la ilusión;
De ese rostro soberano
No puede ser mexicano,
Lo dice mi corazón.
María: (Enfadada) Buen modo de enamorar,
¡despreciar mi patria así!
Don Carlos: (Sumiso) Dígnese usted perdonar:
¡es tan difícil hallar
Una cosa buena aquí!
María: Pues abierto está el camino,
¡Qué pesado y qué tenaz!
Llene usted su alto destino;
Vuelva usted por donde vino;
Déjenos usted en paz;
Si usted no está bien hallado
En el suelo en que nació
Vaya usted al otro lado,
Que un galán almibarado,
No es mucha pérdida, no.
Chapter 2
2.1, pp. 75-6
Formado el carácter moral de una señorita con la religión y la virtud, debe adornar su
entendimiento con algunos conocimientos, que aún cuando no sean profundos, sean útiles. Debe
huir de dos extremos igualmente desagradables, y son, el de una ignorancia grosera, y el de una
vana ostentación de su saber…Un aire de superioridad o de altanería, es el que peor sienta a una
2.2, p. 79
Reglas para sentarse al piano
1. El cuerpo estará derecho.
2. La distancia que debe haber de la silla al piano será de un pie.
3. Se doblará el codo naturalmente de modo que se pueda tirar una horizontal de la punta
de éste a la superficie de las teclas, graduándose por esto la altura del asiento.
4. La muñecas deben estar un poco más elevadas que los codos a fin de que éstas dominen
al teclado.
5. Los dedos se tendrán recogidos en tal disposición que la forma de la mano sea redonda.
6. El dedo pulgar nunca se tendrá fuera del teclado.
7. Los dedos se contarán por el mismo dedo pulgar: 1º, 2º, 3º, 4º y 5º.
2.3, p. 89
Los Sres. D. M. Eduardo Gavira y D. Domingo Ibarra son los autores de este baile de la
Camelina, la cual es hija de la Dama de las Camelias, porque su música tiene parte de la ópera
de la Traviata, y no obstante que la Camelina es nacida en México, no se parece al Jarabe ni al
Palomo ni menos a un padedú teatral de carácter mímico o grotesco, sino que es por el estilo de
los bailes que actualmente están en uso, conforme al sistema de Mr. Labordé para las tertulias
del gran tono.
Chapter 3
3.1, p. 111
Los acordes, las cadencias, el contrapunto, la harmonía, la composición, las notas de la música y
el solfeo, presentan materia bastante, así para la instrucción como para la diversión amena de
nuestras señoritas mexicanas que felizmente dedican ya con tanto esmero sus ratos de ocio a las
apreciables tareas del arte mágico de la música.
3.2, p. 112
Tenemos genios a propósito para que en América se reprodujeran los Jomelis, Tartinis, Ducecs,
Aydms y tantos otros que han sido la admiración de la Italia y demás estados de la dulce
Europa: la dulzura del clima, el carácter nacional, la flexibilidad del idioma, todo presenta las
más felices ventajas para que la música no yaciera en el abandono en que hoy desgraciadamente
se encuentra, así en el canto a capella como en la de cámara o teatral.
3.3, p. 117
Igualmente consistirá la mejora en la posibilidad de insertar algunas piezas de música moderna,
aplicadas a clave o guitarra, pues la imprenta del Mosaico posee muy buenos caracteres en ese
ramo. Así es, que las nuevas composiciones, si son de mérito, a juicio de los inteligentes,
tendrán lugar en el periódico, y en caso de ser cantables, se añadirá el verso, a fin de difundir
por todas partes el buen gusto en uno y otro género.
3.4, p. 128
La afición a la música se ha propagado en esta capital con una velocidad sorprendente, y el
gusto se ha ido refinando hasta un punto que admira: los grandes conciertos y óperas de
aficionados que se han presentado al público, testifican de la verdad de mis acertos. En medio
de las disensiones civiles que han desgarrado las entrañas de la patria, la Providencia ha
permitido en nuestro suelo los progresos de un arte capaz de suavizar el carácter de las naciones
y de los individuos.
3.5, p. 132
A las señoritas mexicanas
Cuyas virtudes
Forman el honor de su sexo:
Su ternura,
El consuelo del hombre;
Y su belleza
El más brillante ornamento
De su patria,
Ofrece este leve obsequio
Mariano Galván Rivera.
3.6, p. 139-40
Si es siempre grato elogiar el mérito sea la que fuere su patria, si fácil corre la pluma para los
encomios y alabanzas de todas aquellas personas que de cualquiera manera sobresalen en medio
de la sociedad en que vivimos y contribuyen a nuestro bienestar; esto es mucho más
satisfactorio cuando el objeto de nuestros aplausos nos está unido por los vínculos de la patria, y
abre en ella una carrera antes desconocida. Acaso hay entonces en nuestra admiración algo de
amor propio y de orgullo, por el que nos creemos partícipes del triunfo de nuestros
conciudadanos y asociados a su gloria, y tal es lo que acaba de pasar a los mexicanos con la
joven, cuyo retrato adorna la página que está al frente del artículo.
3.7, p. 142
¿Es posible pintar con más verdad el delirio amoroso del último acto, cuando Lucía delante de
su hermano, con la distracción propia de una enajenación mental fija la vista y juguetea con las
borlas de su traje, nos parece ella misma una verdadera demente, no la actriz que ha
comprendido el carácter que desempeña, y que lo ha estudiado hasta en sus más imperceptibles
y delicados pormenores?
3.8, p.142
Contrayéndonos ahora la encantadora Anna Bishop ¿qué diremos de ella cuando por espacio de
tres horas ha podido ocupar la atención del público, atrayéndose en el acto las simpatías de
todos? ¿Hablaremos de la voz de verdadero soprano sfogato, de esa voz tan pura y expresiva en
que tan pronto parece oírse el ruiseñor como los dulces sonidos de la flauta? ¿Hablaremos de la
asombrosa facilidad con que sabe presentarse en una sola función en tres o cuatro caracteres de
diversos géneros y distinta escuela? ¿Haremos el elogio de su brillante vocalización y de la
precisión de sus entonaciones?... Tememos, en verdad, que por la insuficiencia de nuestra pobre
pluma no podamos hacer la debida justicia del mérito de la célebre artista, y por tanto nos
limitaremos a decir que su mérito musical es muy superior a lo de que él se nos había referido,
lo que comprueba las demostraciones de general aprobación que hizo el público.
La manera de vestir de Anna Bishop, es tan propia, que llena completamente la ilusión,
y se penetra tanto del papel que ejecuta que no es la Bishop a quien se ve en el de Norma sino a
la misma sacerdotisa que olvidando que lo era, se entrega al amor de Polión, o bien a la gentil
Linda di Chamounix, que bajo el traje de una bella dama de París.
3.9, p. 144-5
La señorita Mosqueira en el papel de Lucrecia, manifestó como siempre la envidiable
flexibilidad de garganta que la distingue, y una dulzura y un sentimiento tal vez algo en
disonancia con su carácter, pero de hermoso efecto. Sin embargo, su voz no tuvo la extensión
que otras veces ni la seguridad necesaria en el principio de la ópera; defectos que es preciso
atribuir al temor que debía inspirar aquel público. Su acción no era tampoco bastante despejada,
y se resintió de monotonía. Estaba, como llaman los franceses verdaderamente genée, mal a son
3.10, p. 146
Querer formar un paralelo entre las señoritas Mosqueira y Cosío es un absurdo: la voz de la
primera es dulce, suave, modulada, es el trino del ruiseñor, la armonía de la calandria, el arrullo
de la tórtola, al paso que la de la señorita Cosío es viva, extensa, clara, nerviosa, llena de
majestad; es el genio que llena con su acento los desiertos: la voz de la primera, encanta,
enternece; la de la segunda domina. ¿Cuál de las dos es más hermosa? No puede decirse: las dos
han recibido un don del cielo que deben cultivar, y yo les aconsejo que no abandonen un
momento el estudio.
3.11, p. 149
Es decir que vamos mal, y lo peor es, que por ahora no vemos trazas de remedio. Para hoy está
anunciada la María di Rohan, en la cual vemos que se ha dado la Sra. Costini el papel de
Armando de Gondi. Este papel es de contralto, y es absolutamente imposible que la Sra. Costini
pueda cantarlo aún cuando se le transporte, si no se le hacen grandes alteraciones.
[…]Conocemos muy bien a la María di Rohan, y el Sr. Maretzek nos hallará muy poco
indulgentes con las alteraciones que arbitrariamente quiera ahcerle. No nos arguya que le obliga
a ello la falta de contralto. No creemos que le fuera imposible el contratar a la Srita. Amat; y
aún cuando esto no fuera, tiene en su compañía a la Sra. Majocchi, que podría desempeñar
perfectamente el papel de Armando […]
Si este señor [Maretzek] no procura enmendar los defectos que se van notando casi en
cada ópera, tal vez se arrepienta antes de que llegue a la mitad de su temporada: que si el
público de México es en extremo generoso e indulgente con los que de veras se esfuerzan por
agradarle, también sabe castigar con su indiferencia a los que interpretan mal su generosidad, o
no saben corresponder a ella.
3.12, p. 154
No habiendo emulación artística, ni compañías nacionales en qué poder trabajar, el aislamiento,
el abandono y la miseria fueron los últimos compañeros de aquella notable cantatriz, cuyo genio
no bastó siquiera para proporcionarle lo necesario para cubrir las necesidades de su modesta
existencia, viniendo a morir pobre y agobiada por el más profundo desdén.
Chapter 4
4.1, p. 155
Pero por muchos elogios que puedan hacerse de las piezas anteriores, ninguna de ellas causó
tanto efecto como la aria del Tancredo. Más de quince años hace que se conoce en México, y
hoy es tan común, tan trivial, que las nodrizas la cantan a los niños para hacerlos dormir; en los
bailecitos de medio carácter, se repite, acompañada por la vihuela, en una palabra, no hay
muchacha ni viejo que no la sepa de memoria.
4.2, p. 173
Don Carlos: ¡Bravo! Y que es universal (211)
De la música el idioma.
¡Cuánto me agrada Rossini
Pero es más tierno Bellini,
Más ‘tocante’: yo vi en Roma,
No, no en Roma, fue en Milán,
Vi Pirata, vi Extranjera:
¡oh, que hermosas! Creo que era
Por la fiesta de San Juan.
¡cabalmente! Pero nada
Como Norma, ¡qué belleza!
Habla allí naturaleza.
4.3, p. 180
Unos oyen atentamente, otros duermen, y otros ni oyen, ni duermen, ni dejan oír a los demás;
alabo a los primeros, doy a los segundos las buenas noches, y voy a di[42]vertirme con los
últimos. Algunos, tan prosaicamente mercantiles que quieren convertir en lonja el teatro, hablan
del precio del chile o del cacao, de la alta o baja de los fondos públicos, del quince por ciento y
de la amortización del cobre; de modo que el vecino que quiere escuchar a los actores, a pesar
de sus muchas interpelaciones, ve regalado su oído tan pronto con un bellísimo verso de Bretón,
como con la noticia de una quiebra, o con la compra de treinta tercios de pasilla.
4.4, p. 1866
El público que asiste al teatro y tiene el derecho de que se le den óperas nuevas, que tiene la
facultad de pedir las que le agraden, principalmente cuando la empresa está bien dispuesta a
dárselas, que tiene igualmente el poder legal de impedir, dirigiéndose a las autoridades, que tres,
cuatro o veinte individuos le estorben ni por un momento el ver una ópera bien arreglada
4.5, p. 187
A LA ALBINI, by Guillermo Prieto.
Tu dulce, tu grato, tu plácido canto,
excita mi encanto, mi tierna emoción.
Rival de las gracias, de amor precursora,
ya se oye sonora tu angélica voz.
Despliega su raudo, su eléctrico vuelo,
se pierde en el cielo su curso fugaz,
en tanto que luce con noble hermosura
tu nítida y pura, tu cándida faz.
Arroba a las almas tu armónico acento,
inspira tu aliento sublime fervor,
y aquel que a tu vista de gozo respira,
se extasía, te admira, te da el corazón.
Si acaso afligida remedas quejosa
a amante llorosa o a madre infeliz,
anubla tus ojos el lúgubre llanto
y se oye en tu canto la voz del gemir.
El hombre, entre tanto, de todo se olvida,
te ve enternecida, resiente tu mal,
se exalta, suspira, padece martirio,
de dulce delirio se siente embriagar.
Si juegas amable la voz voluptuosa
que infunde ardorosa la intensa pasión,
el pecho al instante se abrasa en tu fuego,
se pierde el sosiego, se embriaga de amor.
Mas ¿quién cuando cantas perdido no te ama?
¿y quien no se inflama si sabe sentir?
De amor, de ventura, me brindas los goces;
cuando oigo tus voces no soy infeliz.
Alcance mi musa del tiempo memoria,
y guarde tu gloria tu canto inmortal;
tu nombre, y el nombre del grande Bellini,
¡oh mágica Albini!, resuenen en paz.
4.6, p. 200
A excepción de varios pedazos que recuerdan a Bellini, [esta ópera] no es por lo demás de
aquellas que principalmente han contribuido a la gloria del gran compositor. Muchas veces en
ella se encuentra una buena concepción junto a una mala idea, una inspiración brillante y de
sentimiento junto a un pedazo que la languidez y la monotonía hacen a veces poco agradable.
Chapter 5
5.1, p. 208
Las variaciones de la Norma estuvieron sublimes. Admirable ejecución, exquisita delicadeza
para pulsar las teclas, maestría increíble para dominar el piano, y hacerlo, ya reír gozosamente,
ya llorar de una manera que lastima el corazón. Los que no han oído tocar a Herz, no tienen idea
de lo que es un piano.
5.2, p. 216
Sabemos que la verdadera causa de las dificultades que había para arreglar el concierto que va a
dar en la Lonja Mr. Herz, consistía en la fundada repugnancia que había de parte de ciertos
suscriptores para que, dándose entrada franca a todos, tuvieran tal vez, sus esposas e hijas que
estar junto a personas sin principios, educación, ni decencia. Vencido este obstáculo, por el que
justamente no querían pasar, se ha allanado satisfactoriamente lo demás, y pronto se verificará
el concierto por suscripción.
5.3, p. 218
Habiéndose circulado en la ciudad, por personas que gustan complicar las cosas, que los
nombres de las personas que quieran boletos para el concierto del Sr. Herz deben ser aprobados
por el comité encargado de la suscripción; nos apresuramos a asegurar al público que esto es
falso; que toda persona respetable tiene derecho a sacar sus boletos, y que éstos se le darán sin
más requisito que la firma de uno de los 47 propietarios de la lonja, y esto se hace únicamente
para impedir abusos que, con perjuicio del público, se han hecho siempre en funciones de esta
Por ocupación del comité, el secretario del Sr. Herz estará en la Lonja la mañana de
hoy para el expendio de boletos.
5.4, p. 231
El ilustre artista quiere considerarse como mexicano, durante su permanencia en nuestro país, y
desea dejarnos un recuerdo perenne de la estimación que nos profesa. Reconocidos en extremos
a un testimonio tan recomendable de aprecio, tenemos la satisfacción de ser los primero en darle
las gracias, y esperamos que realizada la idea, pronto se hará popular ese himno, que servirá
para excitar nuestro júbilo en las festividades públicas, y para que en las batallas entren nuestros
guerreros al combate, con denuedo y bizarría.
5.5, p. 233
Desde que se indicó la idea de formar un himno nacional, nos pareció que se pedía al arte una
cosa que no podía nacer de él, sino que es hija de las circunstancias de los pueblos,
contemporánea solo de sus momentos de entusiasmo, y que se consagra por la memoria de
acciones grandes, o por la solemnidad que dan los recuerdos de personas o tiempos gloriosos.
5.6, p. 235
Una Marcha Militar,
ejecutada por primera vez, compuesta y dedicada a los mexicanos por Henri Herz.
Esta hermosa pieza, cuya dedicación espera su autor será bondadosamente acogida
como una débil muestra de su profundo reconocimiento por la generosidad con que han sido
apreciados sus esfuerzos de agradar: será ejecutada en doce pianofortes, por veinte profesores,
doble orquesta, banda militar, coro de hombres, [mis negr.] bajo la dirección de Henri Herz, que
tocará durante la ejecución, una brillante variación sobre su Trío.
5.7, p. 235-6
Doce pianos, veinte pianistas, una banda militar y orquesta doble, tocaron la marcha militar
mexicana, que se nos ha asegurado es composición hecha en esta capital por el Sr. Herz. Sea
hecha en esta capital o no, ella es de mucho mérito, conmueve extraordinariamente, obra una
reacción en el sistema nervioso, y será por tanto muy propia para tocarse en los regimientos de
línea y de guardia nacional. El redoble de un tambor fue la señal de la salida de una compañía
de soldados, que cantaron la marcha sin ser escuchados, pues el torrente de armonía hacía no
sólo que se perdieran sus voces, sino que se estremeciera el teatro. Al mismo tiempo que salió el
coro de guardias nacionales, aparecieron de uno y otro lado del salón que formaba el foro,
multitud de banderas tricolores, que fueron saludadas con los bravos y palmoteos del público.
5.8, p. 236
La marcha militar, composición bella, musicalmente hablando, y bien ejecutada produjo en mí
el efecto contrario que en todo el público; me entristeció. Los mexicanos debíamos dejar esos
cantos guerreros y alegres para cuanto tengamos motivos de entonarlos: hoy nos toca callar, y
reconcentrar nuestro adiós para cuando podamos vengarlos si es que podremos hacerlo algún
5.9, pp. 236-7
El editor sabe que algunas personas han vendido la Marcha nacional manuscrita, violando el
derecho de propiedad que tiene e infringiendo la ley vigente que lo asegura. A mas del robo que
con este acto se comete, y que a su tiempo se reclamará de los responsables, se pega un chasco a
los compradores, porque la Marcha nacional manuscrita que se les vende es defectuosísima,
como que carece de las correcciones hechas en la que se va a publicar en este establecimiento.
5.10, p. 237 (in French)
T’ai-je parlé de la Marche Nationale mexicaine que j’ai joué à mon dernier concert avec 24
pianistes, 50 choristes, 1 orchestre, 2 bandes militaires, 48 drapeaux, […] ? Cette blague a fait
un effet prodigieux et je crois que je vendrai la propriété de cette petite marche pour 1000 frs.
5.11, p. 242 (in French)
Le gouvernement vient de faire frapper une médaille en or en mon honneur et en […] de la
Marche nationale mexicaine (laquelle, entre nous, j’avais composé à N.Y., ohé la bonne farce!).
5.12, p. 244
El Sr. Herz tocó después una fantasía sobre el precioso tema irlandés La última rosa, y entre la
música irlandesa y francesa e italiana introdujo la música mexicana más sandunguera, más
bulliciosa, más subversiva, el Jarabe. ¡Un jarabe tocado por Herz! ¡Qué profanación, que
atentado contra el buen gusto, contra la aristocracia!....pues bien, que digan lo que quieran los
hombres del buen tono, no hagáis caso, id, aunque os cueste una onza de oro, a escuchar el
jarabe tocado por Herz. ¡Dios mío! ¡qué variaciones tan encantadoras, qué acentos de placer tan
vivos! ¡qué alegría tan franca y tan ingenua! El efecto que produjo en la concurrencia, fue
mágico. Al principio el público creyó que era Bellini y Rossini quienes hablaban en el piano, y
guardó ese respetuoso silencia que indica que en todas partes del mundo se tributa al genio una
veneración religiosa; pero apenas fue reconocido el jarabe nacional cuando del cielo del teatro
brotó un torrente de aplausos, una tempestad de alegría que comunicó su electricidad a los
palcos y al patio. Los hombres sonaban las manos, las lindas jóvenes hacían todavía otra cosa
mejor, reían, y sus ojos, su fisonomía toda, expresaban el contento y la sorpresa. ¿Herz tocando
jarabe, el músico de Viena, el discípulo protegido de Napoleón, tocando un sonecito de los
tapatíos y de los poblanos? Este es un acontecimiento notable, dignos de mencionarse. Los
aplausos fueron tan repetidos y las instancias del público tan vivas, que el Sr. Herz tuvo que
salir de nuevo a tocar. ¿Y qué tocaría?....Bah, para un músico, para un talento, esto es cosa de
poca monta. Un momento de inspiración, y está el negocio concluido.
C.1, pp. 258-9
¿De qué región lejana
Te trajo el aura inquieta
Dulcísimo Enriqueta
A la remota tierra mexicana?
Ave de riza pluma
Bellisima y canora,
¡Cómo tu voz sonora
Es blanda en el jardín de Moctezuma!
Aquí donde no hay yelo,
Y es aroma la brisa,
Tu canto y tu sonrisa
En armonía están con nuestro suelo.
Del norte al medio día,
Absorta con tus trinos
En éxtasis divinos,
Entusiasmada Europa te aplaudía.
Pero al rumor de guerra
Al ruiseñor espanta,
Y vuela, y viene y canta,
Y le oye alegre de Colón la tierra.
Y tu voz que dulcísimo suspira,
Y tu sereno angelical semblante,
Y tu mirada tierna y centellante,
Hacen que tiemple mi olvidada lira.
Pues al oír tu celestial acento,
Muda y absorta ¡ay Dios! Te contemplaba,
Y unas veces reía, otras lloraba
De ternura y amor, de sentimiento.
Porque con el acento peregrino
De tu argentada voz, bella cantora,
Curar el mar que al corazón devora,
O avivarlo tal vez, es tu destino.
Tórtola triste en apartado nido
Lloras tus blandas, tus dolientes quejas,
Y al eco entonces que en el alma dejas,
Lamenta su dolor allí escondido.
Mas si alegre modula tu garganta
Risas y amor y plácido contento,
El corazón olvida su tormento,
Y sólo siente que tu voz lo encanta.
Árbitra del pesar o la alegría,
Yo he escuchado cantoras clestiales;
Mas no, Enriqueta, a tu primor iguales,
Ninguna mi alma como tú extasía.
Hermosas son del cielo las estrellas:
Me deleita su luz modesta y pura,
Pero Sirio bellísima fulgura,
Y en su luz superior a todas ellas.
Así también en el jardín la rosa,
Reina de lindas y pintadas flores,
Es su olor sobre todos los olores,
Es su vista también la más hermosa.
Con mil razones extasiado el mundo,
Cuanto tus cantos, Enriqueta, entonas,
Lauros te ofrece, y plamas y coronas,
Y te oye y te ama con amor profundo.
Brilla, sí pues brillar es tu destino:
Encanta con tu voz, linda alemana,
Mas permite que aquí una mexicana
Esparza alguna flor en tu camino.
R. B. de G.